Bargaining resumed today between the BCTF bargaining team and BCPSEA (the bargaining agent for the provincial government and school boards).
Both sides have indicated a wish to reach a settlement before the start of school. But the so-called "net zero" mandate and major concessions tabled by BCPSEA are a formidable stumbling block. The BCTF team has repeatedly indicated that BCPSEA needs a revised mandate to enable negotiations to move forward.
Three major issues are outstanding for teachers this fall: salary & benefits, class size and composition and local bargaining.
Class size & Composition
After a successful court decision that determined the elimination of bargaining over class sizes and class composition was unconstitutional, teachers are shocked that there will be no improvement in classroom conditions this year and that the government is still refusing to meet it's previous class size commitments even though the law will officially change as of April 14, 2012 - mid school year.
The government took $275 million from classrooms in 2002 and students and teachers are paying the price with overcrowded classrooms and a desperate lack of specialty teachers and services for students with special needs.
Salary & Benefits
BC teachers are now the lowest paid in western Canada. This was the conclusion of an arbitrated settlement to the Saskatchewan teachers dispute. That independent arbitrator has suggested both cost of living and market adjustments for Saskatchewan teachers to bring up to the western Canadian average.
BC teachers are asking for wage parity with Alberta and Ontario, where cost of living and housing prices more closely resemble those of many BC teachers.
BCPSEA has offered no wage increases. It proposes two years of "zero" salary increases. At current levels of inflation, this would result in lower purchasing ability and put BC teachers even further behind nationally. BC teachers
were 8th among all provinces and territories in 2011 and will fall lower in rank as of this September.
Teachers want to engage in more joint decisions with locally elected school boards. Local issues are best resolved when local teacher associations meet directly with locally elected Trustees. A "one size fits all" contract simply does not make sense to ensure Districts and schools can provide educational services that make sense for their communities and their students. It is ironic that the government program of "personalized learning" is supposed to take place within a provincial bargaining model.