Teachers accept new contract

40,000 public school teachers accepted a deal on Friday on a new contract to end a year-long labour dispute.

Rolling one over in the West Kootenay has different connotations than it does across the province.

But the deal accepted by 40,000 public school teachers on Friday on a new contract to end a year-long labour dispute has been classified as a “rollover” of the contract teachers held from 2006-2011.

Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union president Andy Davidoff said in a recent interview with the Castlegar News that the key of the deal—accepted by 75 per cent of voting members on Friday—was to not impose a contract.  It also meant the two sides will start bargaining again in a month on issues such as post to fill, lay-off and recall provisions, and professional growth, he said.

“If we can’t agree on those things then the status quo prevails,” he told News reporter Craig Lindsay. “Then what we do is start bargaining again in eight months. But it avoids the legislated agreement, the harsh fines and further punitive legislation—and that’s important.”

The two-year contract—one of which included a work-to-rule campaign—includes improved benefits and seniority provisions but no wage increases, negotiated under a provincial government policy that said any wage increases must be offset by concessions elsewhere in the contract.

The dispute largely focused on wages, with teachers initially asking for a 15 per cent pay increase, although there were other issues such as class size and class composition.

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association will hold a vote for trustees next week on final ratification on the deal. The instability of the last year may not be a thing of the past, however, with the new contract set to expire in June of next year, just a month after a provincial election.

But a ‘yes’ vote means disruptions from the last school year— teachers refusing to perform certain administrative tasks such as filling out report cards—likely won’t affect students when classes resume in the fall.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation recommended teachers vote in favour of the contract, but the union complained it only agreed to the deal because the province would have otherwise legislated a new contract.

— with files from The Canadian Press