British Columbia

B.C. teachers head to bargaining table with 2 weeks until start of school year

The B.C. Teachers Federation — which represents 43,000 teachers — will sit down with the B.C. Public School Employers' Association on Wednesday for eight days of mediated bargaining.

Collective agreement between BCTF and the employers' association expired June 30

Eight days of mediated bargaining between the province and the BCTF will begin Wednesday. (Shiral Tobin)

With two weeks to go before school starts, mediated bargaining is set to begin this week between unionized teachers and the provincial government.

On Wednesday, the B.C. Teachers Federation — which represents 43,000 teachers — will sit down for eight days of mediation with the B.C. Public School Employers' Association in an effort to determine a new collective agreement.

BCTF President Teri Mooring says the two groups have been in discussions since January. 

"Teachers and students and families need to start the school year with the security of having a collective agreement completed," said Mooring.

Agreement expired in June

The collective agreement between the BCTF and the employers' association expired June 30. A mediator was brought in by the Labour Relations Board in July.

Key concerns at the bargaining table are wages, class size and composition, and the recruitment and retention of teachers.

"The NDP came into government and said education was one of their top priorities, and we were really happy to hear that," said Mooring. "Now we need to see that in action."

The BCTF won a landmark decision on class size and composition in the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016. The legal dispute dated back to 2002, when the B.C. Liberal government used legislation to strip teachers of their right to bargain class size and composition.

In a statement to CBC News last week, the Ministry of Education said it was "pleased both sides have agreed to mediation."

"We're optimistic that the parties will find solutions and reach a deal that works for students, teachers and everyone in the school system," it read. "Government has invested $1 billion more in education, including funding almost 4,000 new teachers and 1,000 new education assistants."

Students missed the last two weeks of classes in June and the first three weeks of classes in September in 2014 due to a teachers strike after contract negotiations broke down. 

The school year is set to begin September 3. 

With files from Brigette Watson

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