Finally there was good news for B.C. education with the signing early Tuesday morning of a tentative collective agreement between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and government.
Although it’s yet to be ratified, there is hope that the historic six-year deal will end the teachers’ strike and produce labour peace for at least five years (since the deal is retroactive to July 1, 2013). Schools are expected to re-open next week, possibly Monday.
Teachers will vote on the deal Thursday .
Premier Christy Clark told a news conference that a negotiated agreement “allows us to reset that relationship, which has been dysfunctional for so long.”
“It really is a good day for British Columbia and I think it’s a real game changer for education in the long term because we will now be able to sit down with some of the most important people in the system -and that’s teachers – and work together rather than constantly arguing and fighting.”
Full details about the deal were not immediately available, but news reports say it includes a 7.25 per cent pay hike over the six years plus more money for class size and composition. UPDATE: Details can be found here.
The agreement also provides money to settle outstanding grievances arising from the dispute over class size and composition, but the court battle over that issue will continue next month in B.C. Court of Appeal. Clark said agreement on the fund to settle grievances was a major step forward, for both sides.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who also spoke at the news conference, said the key question now is how will education partners work together to make B.C. public schools even better than they are today.
In response to a reporter’s question, he promised that government will provide new money to school districts to cover all costs arising from the deal. Clark declined to say what the agreement will cost but noted it is “affordable” and won’t result in more taxes or higher government debt.
Fassbender also said discussions are underway with school districts about how they can make up for class time that students have lost due to the strike.
BCTF president Jim Iker held a news conference later Tuesday but offered few details about the agreement, saying his members need to see the wording of the deal before it’s released publicly. He did say, however, that he also expects schools will be back in session next week.
He also expressed hope that his union and government will have a better relationship in future. “It’s been one of my goals so maybe we can actually start working on that piece.”
To the 41,000 members who “held the line”during the longest BC-wide strike by teachers ever, a tired-looking Iker said: “You are my inspiration. Thank you.”
The union is, of course, recommending ratification of the deal, although not all teachers are thrilled.
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and do not speak for the organization.