Is it wages? Teachers are at 8%; the government is at 7%. Clearly it is not wages.
When the government talks about benefits, they are not talking about what most of the public would interpret benefits to mean. It is not limited to dental and extended health. They are including prep time and additional specialist teachers in the cost of “benefits.”
This messaging is clearly designed to inflame the situation and to turn the public against teachers. The government appears to be using this inflated and inaccurate benefit package to deflect public attention away from E.80.
What about E. 80?
The government wants to negotiate its way around past and future court decisions and teachers’ right to freely bargain class size and composition. As you know, the contact language has been restored by the courts; however, the government appealed and requested a stay. This means that the contact language can’t be implemented pending the appeal due in October 2014. The government introduced two articles into negotiations. E.81 and E.80.
The Minister of Education has stated publicly to let the courts decide. However, behind the scenes and despite the stay of this issue, BCPSEA introduced, “Learning and Working Conditions” language, also known as Article E.80. It proposes that the class-size limits now contained in The School Act, the consultative process to allocate the $75 million in the LIF, and a “committee” to discuss specialist teachers should replace firm class size, class composition, and learning specialist provisions in the collective agreement.
Article E.80 concludes with the following note: “These provisions supersede and replace all previous Articles that addressed class size, composition and staffing levels.”
Clearly government wants to bargain their way out of court cases. Furthermore, their proposal does not bring any new funding to the table. The BCTF AGM and Representative Assembly have been clear that teachers are not going to give up what has already been won in the courts.
The government cannot be allowed to circumvent the judicial system and undermine citizens’ constitutional rights.
Article E. 80 is available in its entirety to BCTF members through the BCTF Member Portal.
What was Article E.81?
This article was like an escape clause that said that if either party did not agree with the Appeal Court’s ruling, they could terminate the collective agreement. This idea was clearly outrageous, as education writer Crawford Killian pointed out in The Tyee. In reaction to strong opposition from teachers, parents, and media, government was compelled to drop Article E.81, which it did last Saturday. It is critical that government now hear the same strong opposition with Article E.80.
Latest bargaining proposals online
Updated proposals from BCTF and BCPSEA are now available on the Member Portal.
Separating fact from fiction
Last week, Education Minister Fassbender claimed that he had been trying to get bargaining back on track all summer, but the BCTF would not come to the table. For the record, nothing could be further from the truth.
BCTF President Jim Iker called government’s chief negotiator, Peter Cameron, numerous times this summer. In fact, it took 14 days of talks between Iker and Cameron to get government to agree to one day at the bargaining table – August 8, 2014.
What to do?
Please contact and lobby MLAs and school trustees regarding removing Article E.80 from the bargaining table.
You may have heard that the Liberals have spent $335,000 in a social media campaign to tell British Columbians that teachers are wrong and they are right in this labour dispute. Teachers and supporters need to counter this campaign with tweets in support of teachers and public education.
Have the government defend why they are insisting on E.80. Talk to local school board trustees and ask them what actions they will take to advocate for the needs of our students? If trustee candidates want our help in the upcoming November elections, it’s time for them to demonstrate why teachers should support them.
(From BCTF Memo, Sept 4, 2014)