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Government unveils education reforms, which BCTF criticizes

EDUCATION MINISTER DON McRae listens as Premier Christy Clark fields a question about the government
EDUCATION MINISTER DON McRae listens as Premier Christy Clark fields a question about the government's proposed 10-year agreement with B.C. teachers.
— image credit: Tom Fletcher/Black Press

The Province announced Thursday a proposed framework in the hopes of reaching a 10-year agreement with B.C.'s public school teachers, but their union criticized the announcement.

“The goal of a 10-year agreement is simple and ambitious — give Grade 2 students a chance to go their entire school career without a disruption,” said Premier Christy Clark in a news release.

The proposal, Working Together For Students: A Framework For Long Term Stability In Education, outlines a new Education Policy Council which would include members of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, government representatives and school board trustees; indexing teachers' compensation to an average of other major public sector increases; a new bargaining process; and $100 million dedicated to a Priority Education Investment Fund.

However, the funding, salary indexing and the creation of the council are promised only if a 10-year labour agreement is reached.

The proposed bargaining process would allow teachers the right to strike if negotiations — which are set to begin Mar. 1 — fail to produce an agreement. Teachers would need to issue strike notice by August 31, and if they did, school would not start in September unless teachers agreed to not disrupt school operations.

Education Minister and Comox Valley MLA Don McRae noted his experience as a teacher, highlighting the importance of teachers having a say in the future of education.

"Through this framework, we can strengthen that voice in matters such as funding and policy decisions. With a 10-year agreement, we can move past the strife and disruption of the past and focus on what matters most — working together for students and families across British Columbia.”

Comox Valley District Teachers' Association president Steve Stanley said Thursday morning he needs some time to study the details of the proposed framework before providing any in-depth comment.

"There is lots of history of mistrust and conflict to get over in order to move ahead, however," he added. "This announcement, for example, came out of the blue as teachers and BCPSEA (B.C. Public School Employers' Association) are also working on a new bargaining framework."

BCTF president Susan Lambert added representatives from both groups were set to vote on a new framework agreement for contract negotiations later this month.

“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, adding the BCTF still recommends ratifying the framework agreement.

She called the government's proposed framework significantly flawed, noting concerns around loss of the right to bargain working conditions like class size and composition.

“The key problem is that it ignores the ruling of the BC Supreme Court that teachers have the right to bargain working conditions," she said in a news release. "The Liberals’ own Bill 22 also allows for these issues to be negotiated in this round but her (Clark's) new plan requires teachers to give up this hard-won right."

For more information on the government's proposed framework visit www.gov.bc.ca/bced.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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