B.C.’s teachers may have voted to support the contract agreement reached on June 26 between the B.C. Teacher’s Federation and the provincial government’s bargaining agent, the BC Public School Employers’ Association, but they’re not happy about it, according to Windermere Teachers’ Association local president Doug Murray.
“It’s definitely not a, ‘Oh, yay, are we ever happy,’” Murray told The Valley Echo on June 27, the first day of the province-wide vote. “It’s actually, ‘Oh my goodness, what a dysfunctional situation this is. Really, it’s not real bargaining, it’s kind of a rollover.”
The agreement was arrived at on Tuesday, June 26 after a long and drawn-out battle marked by limited job action on the part of teachers from September to March, a three-day full-scale teachers’ walkout in March, and a province-wide action plan that included the withdrawal of extracurricular activities after the teachers were forced back to work by Bill 22.
Retroactive to July 1, 2011 with an expiration date of June 30, 2013, the agreement offers improvements to benefits, and paid and unpaid leave time, but fails to address the main issues behind the teachers’ job action — class size and composition, teachers’ salaries and prep time, and the “trampling” of teachers’ labour rights by the Province’s controversial back-to-work legislation Bill 22, stated a BCTF news release.
“It’s a basically a rollover with a few improvements,” Murray said. “It’s a good tactic by the government, they kind of backed us into a corner, not promising any real improvements.”
“What’s going on is, they gave us a choice,” he said. “I think the term is a Hobson’s choice; it’s a choice where you really don’t have a choice… either accept this or we’re going to impose a contract with concessions.”
For this reason, the BCTF was recommending teachers to vote in favour of the agreement, “to prevent the government from imposing a contract that would further erode teachers’ hard-won rights and do more harm to students’ learning conditions,” BCTF Susan Lambert said in a release. “Going into this round of negotiations we were the lowest-paid teachers in Western Canada and also lagged behind Ontario. Now we will fall even further behind, despite living in the province with the highest cost of living in the country.”
With the agreement set to expire next June, negotiations for the next contract will have to get underway, said Murray. They could start up over the summer but will most likely be delayed until the fall because everyone’s too tired from the last round, he said.
The day after the tentative agreement between the BCTF and provincial government was reached, the BCTF filed a civil suit with BC Supreme Court against the government over Bill 22, for its unconstitutional removal of provisions from the teachers’ collective agreement and violation of teachers’ collective bargaining rights.
“I really find this whole situation dysfunctional,” Murray said.
The results of the province-wide vote, which was conducted last Wednesday (June 27) through to Friday (June 29) were made public in the evening of Friday (June 29).
A total of 21,044 teachers cast ballots and 75 per cent voted yes, stated the official BCTF release, with a turnout rate of 52 per cent.