Premier Christy Clark’s proposed plan for a 10-year deal with public school teachers ignores court rulings, contradicts government’s own legislation, and risks scuttling a positive bargaining framework on the eve of its expected ratification by the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Public School Employers’ Association.
“The premier’s plan is flawed in a number of significant ways,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert.
“The key problem is that it ignores the ruling of the BC Supreme Court that teachers have the right to bargain working conditions, such as class size and class composition. The Liberals’ own Bill 22 also allows for these issues to be negotiated in this round but her new plan requires teachers to give up this hard-won right. Over the past decade, when Liberal policy regulated learning conditions, class sizes grew and support for students with special needs suffered,” Lambert said.
As a consequence, BC has the worst student-educator ratio in the country, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. In order to bring BC’s teacher staffing levels just up to the national average, the province would have to hire an astounding 6,800 more teachers.
Another major problem is the indexing of teachers’ salaries to average increases of other government employees. “This is fundamentally unfair because it effectively prohibits teachers from negotiating for their own salaries,” Lambert said. “Under such a scheme government has all the cards. The average of net zero is zero.” BC teachers’ salaries are lagging far behind those of other teachers in Canada, and the gap will only widen under this plan, she added.
Lambert questioned the government’s timing on today’s announcement, given that it comes one day before the beginning of the BCTF’s Representative Assembly and the BCPSEA’s annual general meeting. Representatives of both organizations are slated to vote on a new Framework Agreement which offers a positive process for the upcoming round of bargaining.
“In recent months we’ve quietly had productive conversations with the employer about how to achieve a smoother more effective round, and it’s most unfortunate that government chose to intervene at this time,” Lambert said. “The BCTF will continue to recommend ratification of the Framework Agreement and we hope this abrupt announcement from government will not prevent BCPSEA from doing the same.”
On the surface the premier’s rhetoric sounds conciliatory after more than a decade of conflict between the BCTF and the BC Liberals but, in reality, her plan is yet another effort to severely limit teachers’ constitutional right to bargain.