Glen Hansman of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) offered parents a glimmer of hope Sunday when he spoke to the BCCPAC annual general meeting.
Asked if the union would bargain through the summer to settle its bitter contract dispute with government, he told delegates that might not be necessary. The union believes it’s possible to get a deal before the end of June, he said.
In fact, the union thinks it might be possible to “wrap this up” next week, said Hansman, who was one of several invited guests to the AGM.
That was surprising optimism as the province braces for another round of rotating strikes during the coming week. Every public school will be closed for one full day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday, with all schools open on Wednesday.
Hansman, the union’s first vice-president, said the parties weren’t as far apart on wages as has been reported in the media. And he said union proposals on class size are similar to what is already in place, although the BCTF wants action on secondary school classes with more than 35 students.
Class composition is the big stumbling block, given that the union has won two court rulings on this issue, and the government is appealing. The case won’t be heard by the B.C. Court of Appeal until fall (and Hansman said five judges have been assigned to it, rather than the usual three.)
Tweets following Hansman’s address to the BCCPAC suggest his optimism isn’t shared widely. But the parties will resume bargaining Tuesday while awaiting a B.C. Labour Relations Board ruling Wednesday on whether the government acted legally when it imposed a pay cut and partial lockout on teachers.
While attending the BCCPAC meeting, Hansman also answered questions from parents, including:
– What are the rules for teachers about Professional Development?
– What is being done to ensure teachers are equipped to deal with diversity in their classes?
– Why are schools having such problems finding specialist teachers, such as French immersion?
– Will grad ceremonies and other end-of-year activities be affected by the dispute? (Hansman said there’s lots of confusion about this – varying from district to district – but the LRB decision Wednesday should bring some clarity.)
– How can parents be true partners in education if they don’t have a say in learning conditions?
– Why does the union want to restrict the number of special-needs students in every classroom, which is discriminatory?
– Are teachers evaluated?
– Why does seniority trump experience in hiring decisions. (Hansman said it doesn’t and that seniority is taken into account only when candidates are equally qualified.)
– Why are retired teachers able to return as teachers on call, depriving new teachers of opportunities. (Because mandatory retirement was eliminated in B.C. and to deny retirees work would be discriminatory, he replied.)
Earlier Sunday, Hansman participated in a panel discussion with Starleigh Grass of the First Nations Education Steering Committee, Brian Leonard of the B.C. Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association, Jane Thornthwaite, parliamentary secretary for student support and parent engagement, and Terry Berting, the out-going BCCPAC president. But my report on that will have to wait for another day.