B.C. teachers, government reach tentative agreement

Teachers adhere to net-zero mandate, government drops concession demands

British Columbia’s 41,000 public school teachers have reached a tentative agreement with the provincial government, ending a year-long labour battle between the two parties.

The one-year agreement, reached on June 27, standardizes provincial language for a number of leaves and establishes a process for the local/provincial bargaining process, the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) says.

The agreement is also consistent with the government's net-zero mandate, according to B.C. Education Minister George Abbott, adding that the BCPSEA and teachers’ union have indicated they will advise their members on details of the agreement in the coming days.

The B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) says it will recommend its members ratify the agreement, but that it was “compelled into this process under threat of huge fines and further punitive legislation,” BCTF president Susan Lambert said.

“We have been able to achieve some modest improvements but, above all, we succeeded in getting the government (to) take its concession demands off the table,” Lambert said in a statement. “We've concluded this agreement in order to prevent government from imposing a contract that would further erode teachers' hard-won rights and do more harm to students' learning conditions.”

Teachers will vote on the agreement between June 27 and 29, with the results to be announced in the evening of June 29, Lambert said.

The BCPSEA will be recommending the boards ratify the agreement, as well.

“This is now the third collective agreement negotiated between BCSPEA and the BCTF under the provincial bargaining structure, said BCPSEA president Melanie Joy. “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.”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark congratulated the government’s bargaining agent on being able to reach a deal under the net-zero mandate.

“Many people thought (this settlement) was an unlikely outcome,” Clark said at a press conference in Kelowna, B.C. “It’s a good day. It’s a good agreement.”

“Students and parents who are going to have some certainty for the next year and that’s really important,” Clark said in an earlier statement. “We can’t underestimate the importance of resuming normal activities without disruption in schools in September.”

The agreement is set to expire on June 30, 2013.

B.C.’s teachers began a “work to rule” campaign last September before mounting a three-day full-scale walkout in March 2012. The government immediately responded by passing legislation, which limited their right to strike. Both parties had been meeting with a mediator to work towards an agreement.

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