Local teachers won't be jumping up and down over a proposed contract settlement but the Langley Teachers' Association (LTA) is recommending they vote in favour of the deal.
LTA president Gail Chaddock-Costello speculated that the breakthrough after more than a year of stalemate between teachers and their employers has to do with the provincial Liberal government wanting this cleared away well before next year's election.
"I think they needed a win in something," she said.
Education Minister George Abbott makes it sound like a win.
"The term of the agreement runs until June 30, 2013, sets out improved language to manage leave provisions, and is consistent with government's net zero mandate," he said. "In addition, the parties agreed to further discuss and seek mutually agreeable improvements on key policy issues to provide students with the best education possible."
The deal provides for modest benefit increases but no changes in pay and class size/composition. The two-year deal is retroactive and expires in March 2013.
Chaddock-Costello said that means negotiations for the next contract will start in about eight months but won't likely be resolved before the next provincial election.
"Politically this government is under tremendous stress," she said.
"No other public sector union has been subjected to this kind of attack," Chaddock-Costello said.
She added that given the resulting deal, this should have been resolved much sooner and faulted the Liberals' "union-busting mentality."
After the provincial government imposed Bill 22, which included high fines for teachers and union officials for certain types of job action, teachers never took their opposition far enough to invoke the penalties. The B.C. Teachers' Federation has said teachers will continue to oppose the legislation as a limit to their right to collective bargaining rights.
The legislation imposed a cooling off period where teachers were supposed to cease job action, prompting both sides to seek rulings from the Labour Relations Board about what could and could not be done.
Employers tried to force teachers to resume extracurricular activities but the LRB sided with teachers, saying they could not be compelled to do what are considered volunteer activities.
The LRB did say teachers had to hold parent-teacher meetings and issue report cards, though.
"We've had more trips to the LRB that I think I've lost count," she said.
The provincial government appointed Charles Jago as the mediator. There were almost 80 bargaining sessions and 16 with Jago and the two sides before the resolution.
"This is now the third collective agreement negotiated between BCPSEA and the BCTF under the provincial bargaining structure," said Melanie Joy, who
chairs the BC Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA).
"We hope this tentative agreement will be carefully considered by both boards of education and teachers, and that they will agree this is a reasonable settlement at this time," Joy said. "For a variety of reasons it's been a challenging round of bargaining, but we always believed that if the parties could get down to focused discussions at the table, a negotiated deal was possible. There's no question that an agreement reached by the parties is always the best resolution, and that was always BCPSEA's objective."
The LTA and other teacher unions will vote on the deal with the BC Teachers Federation announcing results by late Friday.
@ Copyright 2013