BCTF negotiations continuing with mediator

Teacher contract negotiations are moving, but a legislated contract is still likely.

Teacher contract negotiations are moving, but a legislated contract is still likely, according to Comox District Teachers’ Association president Steve Stanley.Stanley said B.C. Teachers’ Federation representatives have had a number of meetings with government-appointed mediator Charles Jago so far and things look less bleak than they did just a couple of months ago.”It was a little rocky, I think, at the start but now it looks like they’ve had some substantive discussions,” Stanley said. “At least, you know, there’s issues on the table that are looking hopeful anyway, optimistic, that maybe he will be able to find some middle ground.”Jago was appointed by government earlier this spring when Bill 22 was brought in. He has been meeting with the BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association to see if the two sides can come to an agreement, and is expected to report his findings to government by the end of June.Although Stanley said the BCTF has been negotiating in earnest with Jago, it is also going ahead with a court case to have Jago’s appointment as mediator quashed because of his connections to the Liberal government.Last week, Education Minister George Abbott told media a contract will be imposed by government before the start of the next school year if the dispute is not settled through mediation. Stanley said what the contract looks like will determine teachers’ actions — and what the next school year could look like. “It feels like (a legislated contract is) going to happen — depending on what that looks like of course could have a big impact on next year,” said Stanley. “Things could be worse next year, or if the (contract) comes back and it’s something people can live with, maybe it’ll be fine — it really depends.”The cooling-off period imposed by Bill 22 ends in August, and Stanley said teachers are not allowed to discuss future plans of action until that period is over.Teachers withdrew from extracurricular activities to legally protest Bill 22, which makes a strike illegal. The BCPSEA filed an application to the Labour Relations Board to have the BCTF’s withdrawal from extracurricular activities declared illegal. The LRB has not ruled yet.According to Stanley, the BCTF has filed a court petition around the right to strike, essential services legislation and government interference, which it is calling Charter of Rights and Freedoms issues. It’s also going to court over class size issues, and has a civil case in the works surrounding the constitutionality of Bill 22.writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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