Representatives of the BC Teachers’ Federation are urging newly appointed Education Minister Peter Fassbender not to break off the current round of constructive negotiations in order to impose a 10-year term with no new money.
“The best way to achieve real stability in schools and durable labour peace is through mutually respectful negotiations that conclude in a signed collective agreement at the bargaining table,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert. “Constructive negotiations have already been taking place throughout the spring and are ongoing even today. We need a fair deal for teachers and better support for kids.”
In a meeting this morning, Fassbender told Lambert and BCTF President-elect Jim Iker that he wants to “pause” the current negotiations to meet with the BC School Trustees Association, the BC Public School Employers’ Association, and the BCTF to “create a roadmap together” leading to a new bargaining structure. It would impact this round of negotiations and would include a 10-year term, but no funding.
“We don’t need a new bargaining structure since all the relevant parties, including government, are now at the table,” Lambert said, adding that the current talks have been the most constructive in years. “What we really need is for government to come to the table with the resources and political will to reach a negotiated agreement, one that will guarantee support for all students when they need it.”
Lambert pointed out that BC’s per-student funding is $1,000 below the national average, according to the latest Statistics Canada data: www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-595-m/81-595-m2013099-eng.pdf. Further, BC now has the worst student-educator ratio in Canada, and it would require hiring 6,600 new teachers merely to get BC schools up to the national average.
“Teachers came into this round with our rights to negotiate class size and composition legally restored. That right is so important, since we’ve always sought improvements for students as well as ourselves through the bargaining process,” Lambert said. “But without increased investment in public schools, the government will simply be locking in the inadequate learning conditions and scant resources for another decade. I’m sure no BC parent wants another 10 years of larger classes, less support for students with special needs, and constant fundraising for the basics in their children’s schools,” she said.
Lambert said: “I’m afraid the rhetoric around stability is simply a euphemism for removing our rights and silencing teachers. Stability really means locking in deteriorating conditions in classrooms for another decade.”