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Province, BCTF reach tentative deal

Less than four months after the BC Teachers’ Federation won a landmark victory at the Supreme Court of Canada, the union has reached a tentative agreement with the province.

Representatives of the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), the Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat, and the Ministry of Education inked a memorandum of agreement last week.

On Nov. 10, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision regarding the deletion of certain BCPSEA–BCTF Provincial Collective Agreement provisions by the Education Improvement Act. The court’s decision restored the deleted provisions, which triggered the negotiations

Given the court’s restoration of nearly 1,400 clauses across 60 collective agreements, it was important for the parties to determine how to implement the restored language within the context of an education system that had evolved over the past 15 years, said Education Minister Mike Bernier. The tentative memorandum provides clarity related to class size and composition, non-enrolling staff and process language that are now restored.

“This is great news for students, parents, and teachers. If ratified, the agreement means thousands more teachers, more resources and more classroom supports,” said Bernier. “If ratified, it will build on the $100 million for up to 1,100 new teachers announced in January’s interim agreement with the BCTF and the record funding increase we just announced in the budget.”

The agreement fully restores all of the substantive collective agreement language that was unconstitutionally stripped in 2002 by then-Education Minister Christy Clark, said BCTF president Glen Hansman.

“The tentative agreement, if ratified, will allow the next school year to start with thousands more teachers, smaller class sizes, better class composition, and specialist-teacher ratios,” he said. “B.C. teachers have been fighting for 15 years to defend our rights and to restore our working conditions. If ratified, this agreement will mean the beginning of a new chapter in public education in BC, one in which teachers will once again have the time to give students the individual care and attention they need and deserve. School libraries and counselling offices will be re-opened, shop and lab classes will have safety standards restored, and all classrooms will be properly supported.”

The tentative agreement is still subject to a province-wide vote of BCTF members, as well as the BC Public School Employers’ Association’s process. BCTF members will vote March 8-10.

“The BCTF executive committee has endorsed the tentative agreement and is recommending ratification to our members,” said Hansman.

In January, the government agreed to fund 1,100 new full-time teaching positions for the current school year. Many of those positions are now filled and those teachers are already supporting students, he said.

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