Teachers optimistic, ready to start negotiating

Teachers and their employer are set to start bargaining next week after a framework agreement was ratified over the weekend by both parties.

The BC Teachers' Federation Representative Assembly unanimously ratified the agreement for the 2013 round of bargaining on Saturday morning. The BC Public School Employers' Association Board of Directors ratified the agreement later that day.

The 2011/2012 school year was an uneasy one — marked with bargaining disputes and teacher job action. But Steve Stanley, president of the Comox Valley District Teachers' Association, said Monday teachers are optimistic a collective agreement can be reached this year as they head into bargaining Feb. 4.

"We're optimistic — this framework seems to be one that we can work together on and move forward," said Stanley. "Whether we'll get labour harmony for 10 years I don't know, but it's certainly a step in the right direction."

According to the framework agreement, proposals will be exchanged as soon as possible, and no later than Mar. 1; a mutually agreed-to facilitator will be brought in to help at the beginning of negotiations; a common data study will be developed to reach agreement on costing of items brought to the table; and some items will be moved from the provincial bargaining table to be bargained locally.

Stanley notes local bargaining is something teachers are very pleased about.

"That was one of the biggest things they agreed to is they would move some of the items that were considered provincial back to the local bargaining table," he said, adding it's a chance for more meaningful conversation around items specific to each school district, like how jobs are posted and filled.

Also, if no agreement is reached by June 30 — when the current contract expires — the facilitator would make recommendations in an effort to reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, the government announced Thursday a proposed new framework in an effort to reach a 10-year agreement with teachers, which Education Minister and Comox Valley MLA Don McRae called "the start of a conversation" representing government's commitment to a "more effective relationship between teachers and government," according to his opinion piece posted on the Ministry's website.

"We now want to invite all the stakeholders to come forward and have a conversation," he added Monday as he spoke to the media. "It wasn't a contract; it was a framework for discussion."

Stanley calls the proposed framework "ambitious" and "grandiose," noting teachers are suspicious of the timing of the announcement given that the agreement now ratified by the BCTF and BCPSEA was in the works at the end of 2012. However, he adds teachers would be open to sitting down for a talk with government.

— With a file from CTV Vancouver Island


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