By Tom Fletcher
With negotiations stalled after 11 months of fruitless meetings and five months of strike action, the bargaining agent for B.C. school districts has concluded there is no chance for a negotiated settlement with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association presented its latest offer as talks with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation resumed this week. BCPSEA issued a statement listing new proposals for teacher leave and a two-year contract term, but expectations of progress on major issues have disappeared.
“The parties are scheduled to meet in bargaining for a full day again [Feb. 2],” the statement says. “It has become evident, however, that any number of presentations, explanations or meetings will not help the parties reach a new agreement.”
BCTF president Susan Lambert described the latest employer proposal as “baby steps” toward a settlement. BCPSEA was more pessimistic than that.
When the latest offer was tabled Wednesday, the union’s response at the bargaining table continued the BCTF’s rejection of the government’s two-year “net zero” mandate on wages. BCPSEA says a union representative also emphasized “characterization of all BCPSEA proposals as ‘contract stripping’” and “the need to ‘go back to your master’ and get a new mandate (in all areas of our package).”
Education Minister George Abbott has repeatedly said there will be no new mandate, but declined to put a deadline on the talks, which will reach the one-year mark in March.
A five-year contract with the BCTF, the first ever negotiated with the province, expired in June 2011. Teachers began the school year last September by refusing report cards, recess and lunch hour supervision and other duties deemed non-essential.