British Columbia

B.C. teachers' union rejects settlement recommendations from mediator

Negotiations between B.C. teachers and their employer have hit another roadblock after the union rejected a mediator's settlement recommendations.

B.C. Public School Employers' Association calls union's decision 'a missed opportunity'

The BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association have been in contract talks since the end of June. (Shiral Tobin)

Negotiations between B.C. teachers and their employer have hit another roadblock after the union rejected a mediator's settlement recommendations.

Mediator David Schaub presented his report to the two sides last week, and it was released to the public on Friday.

B.C. Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring told CBC the recommendations fall short of what her members can accept. She said the report doesn't adequately address teachers' salaries or student learning conditions.

"It didn't address class size inequities, it didn't address class composition, so these are some of the areas we're going to need to see in order for us to get a deal," she said.

Mooring said a wage increase that aligns with inflation is what's needed. She added that it's too soon to talk about job action, and the BCTF is proposing dates to continue mediation.

The BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) have been engaged in contract talks since the last collective agreement expired at the end of June.

BCPSEA board chair Alan Chell said he was disappointed that the teachers rejected the mediator's recommendations.

"In our view, this is a missed opportunity to work with the mediator to create a pathway to move forward," Chell said in a press release.

"We are concerned that the BCTF continues to take an approach that will not lead to a freely negotiated collective agreement."

According to the BCPSEA, there have been 69 bargaining and mediation sessions to date.

Class size, salaries at issue

Federation President Teri Mooring says the union remains committed to reaching a negotiated settlement and is seeking more dates for talks with the employer.

"The main barriers to getting a deal are long-held demands from the employer to roll back the class-size and class-composition language recently restored by the Supreme Court of Canada and a lack of funding from government to make meaningful improvements to teachers' salaries,'' Mooring says in a news release.

"B.C. teachers have the second lowest starting salary in all of Canada and the lowest overall salary in the Western provinces, including Ontario and Alberta.''

The previous B.C. Liberal government banned teachers from negotiating class size and composition, or the number of students with special needs, in 2002. Teachers waged a lengthy legal battle and the Supreme Court of Canada restored the old contract language in 2016.

Chell says the employers association remains committed to negotiating the class size and composition language, which the high court has said parties have the right to negotiate.

School boards have told the employers' association the language needs to change in order to more effectively provide services to students, he adds.

Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, says school boards continue to support the employers association through the bargaining and mediation process.

"We need changes to the restored language, which was originally negotiated in the 1980s and was already out of date in the 1990s,'' she says.

With files from the Canadian Press

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