British Columbia

Teachers union, province in mediation as start of school year approaches

B.C. Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring says her bargaining team will be working as hard as they can to make sure they get a deal by the end of the summer.

8 days of mediation scheduled for later in August

B.C. teachers are in mediation with the provincial government over their collective agreement. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and the provincial government have eight days of mediation scheduled for later this month to wrap up negotiations on their collective agreement. 

The existing collective agreement between the two parties expired on June 30. 

BCTF President Teri Mooring says the two groups have been in discussions around the new collective agreement since January. 

"So there's no reason why we can't get a deal in those eight days," Mooring said. 

The main points of contention, she says, are salary and maintaining their right to bargain class size and composition — something they secured in a hard-won Supreme Court of Canada battle in 2016.

"We're the second lowest paid teachers in all of Canada," she said. "That's an area that we need to catch up in."

Talk of strike 'premature'

The two parties have a mediator appointed by the Labour Relations Board, and Mooring says it'll be September when they make a final decision. 

"Teachers want to start the school year with the security of having a collective agreement settled," she said. 

Mooring says it is "premature" to talk about the possibility of a strike, and says there is still plenty of time left to negotiate.

"We're certainly hoping it doesn't come to that. But again, you know, if we don't end up with a deal by the end of August then we'll need to be having those conversations."

In a statement to CBC News, 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 first three weeks of classes in September in 2014 due to a teachers strike after contract negotiations broke down. 

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