After approximately 80 bargaining sessions and 16 with a mediator, the provincial government and B.C. teachers have hashed out a two-year collective agreement.
In the end of June, 52 per cent of teachers cast votes on the agreement-in-committee reached on Tuesday (June 26). Seventy-five per cent voted in favour.
It’s been a tumultuous year, Sea to Sky School District Superintendent Lisa McCullough said.
“We are just so hopeful for things to settle in for a while,” she said.
Most teachers have mixed feelings regarding the settlement, said Carl Walker, the new Sea to Sky Teachers’ Association president.
“The chronic underfunding still remains,” he said.
This year alone, the system faces a $100 million funding shortfall because of inflationary pressures, states the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF).
The two-year agreement is effective from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013 — which means the sides have only a year to work out a new deal.
The document standardizes provincial language on the number of leaves, establishes a process for local and provincial bargaining and renews several existing Letters of Understanding.
It’s time to move forward, BCPSEA’s chair Melanie Joy stated in a press release.
“We hope the boards and teachers will ratify this agreement and that we can all look forward to the new school year in September with a focus on what’s really important — delivering the best possible educational experience for our students,” she said.
The settlement forces government off its “punitive agenda,” BCTF president Susan Lambert said in a statement. But it doesn’t address class size and composition or a fair and reasonable salary increase, she said.
“I doubt you could find a single teacher in B.C. who is happy with this agreement because it does absolutely nothing to improve the situation in classrooms for students or teachers,” Lambert said.
The agreement does improve teachers’ benefits, she noted.
Three days into a teachers’ strike in early March, the government enacted Bill 22. The bill, which has been criticized by the BCTF, called for a six-month “cooling-off” period with no job action.
On average, 89 per cent of school district’s budgets are spent on salaries and benefits, the BCPSEA noted. This agreement will cover approximately 39,000 teachers in B.C. public education system.