Education ministry adds stick to contract carrot

 

On Thursday, the province unveiled the carrot, and on Friday, it revealed its stick in negotiations with B.C. teachers.

The head negotiator for B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, Peter Cameron, said teachers’ wages will be cut by five per cent if a deal is not reached by the end of June.

“Teachers are not doing certain things,” Cameron said Friday, referring to recent job action. “They’re working less, they’ll be paid less.”

Teachers have stopped meeting and communicating in writing with administrators, and are not supervising students during non-instructional time. Some districts have seen teachers stop going on field trips.

On Thursday, education minister and former Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender unveiled a new offer that gave in to one of the BC Teachers’ Federation’s major complaints. He backed off on forcing a 10-year contract, proposing six years instead.

Because the current contract expired a year ago, negotiations would begin again in five years.

The government also offered a $1,200 signing bonus for teachers if a contract was settled by the end of the school year.

Teachers have moved from a proposed three-year contract term to a four-year term, and on Thursday, BCTF president Jim Iker was positive about the new announcement on Thursday.

Cameron said the government is offering 7.3 per cent wage increases over six years, but did not have much to say about movement on class size and composition, the other major demand of the teachers.

Teachers want smaller classes and more resources for special needs students.

“Their proposal would have worse outcomes than the present [system],” Cameron told the news conference.

He also said it had “human rights problems,” and that it would be more expensive, in total, than the teachers’ actual wage demands, which he also said were out of line with other recently negotiated wage settlements across the province.

Langley Teachers Association (LTA) president Gail Chaddock-Costello rejected the idea that teachers were doing less work because they had stopped supervision of students.

“If they’re not doing that, they’re doing other things,” she said, including meeting with parents, prepping for lessons or marking.

She was surprised by the suggestion of an imminent wage cut, and said in her opinion it seemed like the government would have to go the Labour Relations Board to try that.

“Threats and intimidation are no way to get a deal at the bargaining table,” Chaddock-Costello said.

She was surprised by the news after both sides moved closer on the contract length on Thursday.

“It did seem quite positive,” she said of the previous day’s developments.

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