In a bid to jump start teacher contract negotiations, B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender says the government will table a new offer with a six-year term, rather than the 10-year term it had been insisting upon.
Fassbender says government will also offer teachers a time-limited signing bonus if they are able to reach a deal before the end of the school year.
"Students and parents don’t need to begin yet another school year in September with the threat of a full strike and major disruption hanging over their heads. Our children deserve stability," he said.
Fassbender said the new deal would represent the longest agreement ever reached with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation in British Columbia and he hopes it will lead to a 10-year agreement in the future.
"These two significant incentives are aimed at getting us to an agreement and firmly on a path to long-term labour peace," he said.
B.C. teachers are in the first stage of job action over an impasse with government on a new contract and have withdrawn their participation in non-teaching duties.
Teachers are also no longer attending meetings or supervising students outside of class, and are limiting their non-class time to one hour before and after class.
Many obstacles remain: BCTF
Speaking at a news conference called following the government announcement, BCTF President Jim Iker said teachers are pleased to see the 10-year term off the table.
"It was an unfair, unreasonable, unworkable proposal right from the very beginning. It was more about partisan politics and electioneering than sound educational policy," he said.
Iker says the BCTF won't see the entirety of the government's new bargaining proposal until Friday morning, but warns that the term of the contract is only one of several obstacles to an agreement.
"The government has not tabled or proposed a single improvement to class size, class composition or staffing levels for specialist teachers and that's so important for us," he said. "And this government is still pushing zeros, a non-retroactive increase in year one, and another zero in year two and we've just come off two legislated zeros."
Iker says B.C. provides $1,000 less per student for education than the Canadian average — a disparity he says that must be addressed at the bargaining table.
"We're not there yet," he told reporters.