Teachers will vote Wednesday on binding arbitration proposalSeptember 9, 2014
Teachers will vote Wednesday on their union’s proposed framework for settling a contract dispute with government through binding arbitration.
The B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has expressed confidence that its members will vote solidly in favour of the proposal, thereby indicating a willingness to return to work while binding arbitration is underway.
The ballot will ask: “Do you agree with the Executive Committee recommendation that, if BCPSEA* drops E80 and agrees to BCTF’s proposal to enter into binding interest arbitration and to leave court-related matters to the court, the current strike be ended?”
While the union may win public support for making the proposal, it doesn’t appear to be a solution. Education Minister Peter Fassbender flatly rejected it Monday, telling a news conference: “This government does not support binding arbitration as a way to settle this dispute or any other labour relations issue. The right place to do it is at the bargaining table.”
Binding arbitration would see the parties select an independent person to consider their submissions and come up with a legally binding settlement. A recent column by the Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer explains the government’s reluctance to let a third party make such spending decisions.
Mediation is quite different. There, an independent person works as a go-between to help the two sides reach an agreement. The problem with mediation in this case is that two mediators – Vince Ready and Justice Stephen Kelleher – have said the gulf between the sides is too large to bridge.
The union is proposing that an arbitrator settle various cost items, including salary, signing bonus, health and dental benefits, teacher-on-call issues and preparation time. Class size, composition and staffing ratios would be removed from the bargaining table and remain before the courts.
The parties would enter into side negotiations regarding a fund to address learning needs. If they can’t agree, that too would be referred to binding arbitration.
The BCTF is also insisting the government drop its E80 proposal on class size and composition because it claims E80 would nullify what it has already won in the courts and might win in future court decisions. But that’s also been rejected by Fassbender.
Hence, the stalemate continues.
*BCPSEA is the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, which used to be the bargaining arm for school boards but is now controlled by government.
I am an guest blogger for BCCPAC; I do not speak for the organization.