Despite overwhelming school trustee support province-wide for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation contract extension Wednesday, nobody is coming out a winner in the settlement, says a local trustee.
Mark Wilson said the two-year deal—ratified by 85 per cent of the province’s school boards—means stability for the next year, but it did nothing to bridge the divide between teachers and their employers.
“Nobody really won in this one,” said Wilson, who taught school for 35 years in the district. “The whole process was tainted from Day One.”
He pointed to mediator Charles Jago as not being as unbiased as he should have been in dealing with the dispute. The teachers’ union also argued that Jago was biased and didn’t have the qualifications necessary to fill the post.
As a result, the deal imposed a two-year wage freeze on teachers, which had already been accepted by school support staff and other public sector unions in B.C.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association held a vote for trustees as the final ratification of the deal. Last week 75 per cent of voting members of the BCTF accepted the contract.
The two-year contract—one of which included a work-to-rule campaign—includes improved benefits and seniority provisions, negotiated under a provincial government policy that said any wage increases must be offset by concessions elsewhere in the contract.
Wilson did not dispute the province’s hard line approach.
“That’s the way it is right now, and that is the way the economy is going,” he said. “But … the BCTF asked for too much and the province was giving away nothing. It was a tough year to be a teacher.”
With the new contract set to expire in June of next year, just a month after a provincial election, Wilson anticipated the next round of negotiations that begin in the fall would provide some balance.
“I’m hoping it’s going to have some workforce ease when (teachers) come back in September, after being legislated into something they don’t want,” he said.