The BC Public School Employer's Association is not popular with teachers. It was imposed as a provincial bargaining agent in the mid-90's and teachers were denied their right to bargain locally, directly with their school Trustees. BCPSEA has failed to negotiate agreements in every round of bargaining except 2006, when a government signing bonus was on the table. Government intervention has been used in every other case.
BCPSEA is not an organization of educators. It's employees are bureaucrats with very large salaries who typically have degrees in HR or business. These are the people that are entrusted with negotiating with teachers to reach the best collective agreements to serve Boards of Education who deliver educational programs in schools. It just doesn't make sense. And it is galling to read one of the first "tweets" from BCPSEA announcing their entrance to the twittersphere:
"Spread the word in your District. BCPSEA updates now on Twitter. The first and most accurate factual information on education issues."
Perhaps if you go to your lawyer or banker to seek information and expertise on educational issues, you might equally trust BCPSEA. I personally would ask an educator.
Local teacher associations around the province are frustrated with the impact BCPSEA has had on relations with their local school Boards. Every time we try to work with Boards to modify our collective agreements where a provision clearly isn't working for either party, BCPSEA interferes. This has hampered our ability to discuss standardized testing, class size and composition, the school year, to name just a few issues. These issues are critical to students and families, and their interests should not be represented by unaccountable bureaucrats.
BCPSEA is accountable to almost no one. Yes, they are directed by a Council elected by representatives of school Trustees. But that is a far cry from the type of accountability that locally elected Trustees have. We used to negotiate directly with these locally elected Trustees. If a Board did something unpopular in the community, the Trustees would know come the next election. In contrast, BCPSEA employees never answer to the public. A parent can phone their Trustee. They would have trouble getting in touch with their BCPSEA representative and they would have even more trouble having them listen and act on their concern.
It is interesting that the one small piece of accountability there is - the election of the Chair by Trustee reps - actually got exercised this weekend. In a suprise "upset" (as Janet Steffenhagen called it), former Chair Ron Christensen was ousted and replaced by Mel Joy at last weekend's BCPSEA Annual General Meeting. I hope this was a response to the decades long failure of BCPSEA to act in a way that assists and improves Boards' ability to deliver quality education.
Teachers are hoping this round to bargain a whole lot more with our local Boards. We believe that sensible solutions to local issues that will serve the local community are best made by those who live and work there and understand the needs. They are best developed by those directly elected by the parents and citizens in that community.