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B.C. teachers ratify tentative contract agreement

Members of the BC Teachers’ Federation have ratified a tentative contract agreement with the BC Public School Employers’ Association after weeks of talks with government-appointed mediator Dr. Charles Jago.

In a provincewide vote last week, 75 per cent of more than 21,000 teachers who cast ballots voted in favour of the agreement. The turnout rate was 52 per cent.

BCPSEA is expected to vote Wednesday. If ratified, the net-zero contract would extend to July 1, 2013.

"I think it's a good thing that matters are settled, at least for the time being," Comox Valley School District board chair Tom Weber said Tuesday. "I think it's fully recognized that the agreement that has been negotiated is to run only through until the spring/summer of next year. I trust that those involved, both on the government side and the BCTF side, will continue to dialogue as necessary.

"I think that it offers a period of time that's a little more settled," Weber added. "I'm hopeful that's some comfort to district staff as well as students and parents."

In a news release, BCTF president Susan Lambert says the agreement "does absolutely nothing to improve the situation in classrooms for students or teachers.

“It doesn’t address class size and composition nor does it provide a fair and reasonable salary increase for our members, who have fallen far behind teachers in other parts of Canada," Lambert said, noting the BCTF secured "modest improvements" in "outdated" teacher benefits and certain leave provisions.

“However, the most significant achievement is that we succeeded in getting government take its concession demands off the table. Throughout 80 bargaining sessions, government refused to budge from net-zero and persisted in demanding the elimination of hard-won labour rights and fair process provisions around post and fill, and transfer and recall. With this settlement we have forced government off its punitive agenda.”

Teachers will continue to hold government accountable for providing funding, resources and support to meet the diverse educational needs of children, the release states.

“This year alone, we are facing a $100-million funding shortfall due to inflationary pressures, so we know there will be further cuts to programs and services in schools come September,” Lambert said.

Exactly a year ago Friday, teachers voted 90 per cent to launch a 'teach only' campaign at the beginning of the school year.

Teachers have been without a contract for more than a year. They took the first phase of limited job action from September to March, held a three-day, full-scale walkout and withdrew from extracurricular activities.

Both sides brought actions before the Labour Relations Board.

Jago had until the end of June to help both parties reach an agreement. Education Minister George Abbott had earlier said an imposed contract would be put into place if an agreement was not reached before the start of the school year.

The BCTF continues to challenge Bill 22, which ordered an end to teachers’ job action and compelled a mediation process under threat of fines.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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