BCTF members ratify new six-year contract, ending B.C. teachers’ strike

BCTF President Jim Iker announcing ratification vote results on Thursday.

BCTF President Jim Iker announcing ratification vote results on Thursday.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation membership has voted 86 per cent in favour of a new contract, ending the teachers’ strike that has kept more than half-a-million students out of the classroom.

Of 31,741 ballots cast, 27,275 were in favour of the new six-year contract, BCTF president Jim Iker announced Thursday night. There are roughly 41,000 members in all.

“With the ratification of the new collective agreement, the strike and lockout are now over,” Mr. Iker said. “Teachers and students will be back in school on Monday.”

Mr. Iker said there was a “strong vote of support for the collective agreement” despite the fact the union did not get everything it needs.

“We all know that this deal isn’t perfect, but it does provide gains for teachers, it protects our charter rights, it increases support for our students,” he said.

“There will be more classroom and specialist teachers in schools to help our students; our teachers on call will get fair pay for a day’s work and all our members will get a salary increase.”

However, several teachers have said they are not happy with the new deal. (Read our story on that here.)

Education Minister Peter Fassbender issued the following statement after the BCTF’s announcement:

“We have one of the best public education systems in the world, and that’s in large part because we have such great teachers.

“We can now focus on the path forward. This long-term agreement is an historic opportunity to work together for students – to enhance their education experience and to support their achievements.”

Mr. Iker said no lost time will be made up, though former education minister George Abbott has suggested otherwise:

Meanwhile, Thursday’s turnout was higher than the past few ratification votes:

Find more in the story on our main site here.

Reaction from both sides about tentative B.C. teachers’ contract

FROM BCTF NEWS CONFERENCE:

FROM GOVERNMENT NEWS CONFERENCE:

 


 

British Columbians will be hearing from both sides of the B.C. public education labour dispute today. Government leaders Christy Clark and Peter Fassbender are up at 2 p.m., then Jim Iker of the BCTF will speak at 4:30 p.m. From a government media advisory:

Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender will address the tentative agreement with the BCTF from the Premier’s Vancouver Office.

And a memo from the teachers’ side said this:

BCTF President Jim Iker will speak to media today, September 16, at 4:30 p.m. at the BCTF Building, 550 West 6th Avenue, Vancouver. His remarks will be live streamed at https://new.livestream.com/BCTF/Sept162014.

Stay tuned for developments from these media availabilities.

Tentative deal reached in B.C. teachers’ strike

UPDATE, 1:12 p.m.

Sources close to the negotiations have told The Globe and Mail that teachers will be asked to vote on a six-year deal that includes total wage hikes of 7.25 per cent, which is similar to the offer that the government’s negotiators put on the table in June, and they will not collect the $1,200 signing bonus that was on the table at that time – that offer expired on June 30.

However the government is putting roughly $100-million into a fund that the union can distribute to its members to address the grievances from the 2002 law that stripped the contract of language on class size and composition.

The main victory for the union is that the government is creating a new education fund that will be used exclusively for members of the BCTF to address issues of class size and composition – the number of special needs students in each classroom. The government had offered to put more money into special needs supports, but had initially planned to share that investment with other educators such as educational assistants who are not part of the BCTF.


 

Veteran mediator Vince Ready, who emerged from the Richmond, B.C., hotel early Tuesday morning after another marathon negotiation session, had this to say: “After all these hours I’m very pleased to announced the parties have reached a tentative agreement. I’m not at liberty to release any of the details, nor are the parties. The parties are going to meet later this morning and finalize a few of the outstanding details, but generally speaking there has been a tentative agreement initialed by the parties.”

A ratification vote is expected on Thursday, according to BCTF spokeswoman Nancy Knickerbocker.

So when might schools officially open again?  Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus predicts it will take several days — after the vote — for things to get back to normal: “There is a lot of work and classroom/timetable organization that normally would have started at the end of June and been completed by now,” she said in an email.

“I know principals and VPs have being doing as much of that as they can and I understand the expectation is that we would open within a day or two of an agreement being in place (may require ratification etc). That could be part of the ongoing negotiations as well.

“However it unfolds, it will certainly take several days to get things settled to the point they would normally be at this time of year.”

Here’s our latest news story with developments in the deal to end the strike.

Government-appointed negotiator Peter Cameron takes a walk during a break from negotiations at the Delta Vancouver Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday night. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

Government-appointed negotiator Peter Cameron takes a walk during a break from negotiations at the Delta Vancouver Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday night. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

With a report from Justine Hunter in Victoria

Teacher talks continue between BCTF, BCPSEA

Media staked out at the Delta hotel in Richmond, B.C., where teacher talks continue.

Media staked out at the Delta hotel in Richmond, B.C., where teacher talks continue.

12:45 p.m. Hello from the Delta Vancouver Airport hotel in Richmond, B.C., where talks between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association are ongoing. Little news to share so far; fleeting sightings of BCTF President Jim Iker, BCPSEA’s chief negotiator Peter Cameron and mediator Vince Ready are being tracked and tweeted by media with the feverish curiosity of Loch Ness watchers. Mr. Iker has reportedly said the parties are going over proposals today, and there are whispers of a make-or-break announcement coming sometime this afternoon. Stay tuned.

1:30 p.m. Mr. Ready and Mr. Cameron spotted walking back and forth between two rooms. There are about a dozen members of the media here, and a mic stand is set up. Everyone seems to feel something significant will come out of today’s talks, but still no concrete updates.

2:55 p.m. Mr. Ready and Mr. Cameron walk by. The former smiles and waves; the latter does not. Mr. Cameron seems tired. Media wait with bated breath.

3:30 p.m. A flurry of almost-activity. A blazer-less Vince Ready wanders outside the front of the hotel, sending broadcast media in a frenzy. He is on the phone. When he hangs up, he walks over (on his way back into the hotel) and media ask him if we can expect an update today. “It’s too early to tell. I’m not going to say anything,” he replies. Someone asks who he was on the phone with. He says his grandmother. Chuckles abound.

Vancouver school trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo are here. I asked why and Ms. Woo said she is eager to see what happens. Mr. Denike seems convinced “today’s the day.”

7:00 p.m. About one-third of media have cleared out and many of the others have traded off with coworkers. Some plan on sticking around until midnight, 1 a.m. One radio reporter tells me she’s here until 2 a.m., and if they’re still talking, she has to call in a replacement to take over. That’s some serious commitment.

There have been no updates since the last one — not even a Vince Ready sighting. Am told they’re eating now, and a government staffer is being replaced with another, which suggests a long night ahead. One BCed insider said he was pretty sure there would be a decision today, but of course, nothing’s for sure.

The #bced waiting game.

The #bced waiting game.

 

What to expect Monday from the B.C. teachers’ strike: More bargaining and a startling video

Talks to continue

The weekend bargaining session that saw representatives from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association in talks behind closed doors at an area hotel will continue Monday. It’s the longest the two sides have met since the start of September in their efforts to resolve the strike that has postponed the start of the school year for more than half a million students.

As the parties left the table early Monday morning, where mediator Vince Ready was also present, they maintained a media blackout on their talks, saying only that they planned to resume negotiations later in the day.

More rallies

According to the website Rally for Change, there are three events being organized for Monday:

  • 10 a.m., Victoria: An independent rally “to support human rights” will take place at Lansdowne Middle School
  • 10:30 a.m., Maple Ridge: Protesters will gather for an independent rally at the MLA office of Maple Ridge-Mission rep Marc Dalton (33058 First Ave.).
  • Noon, province-wide: Children and seniors in particular are being asked to join the picket lines across the province and bring a lunch. Organizers of this rally “support proper funding of public institutions, facilities and programs.”

At 6:30 p.m., another group is calling for protesters to show up with pots and pans to make noise for public education on the Cambie Street Bridge in Vancouver. This will be followed by a candlelight vigil. The organizers want participants to use the hashtag #potsandpans for social media updates, and more details can be found here.

An unexpected lift from Mother Nature

Perhaps this isn’t the kind of thing that can be expected to happen again, but this video from the picket lines posted Sunday shows a rather strange sight amid the hot late-summer weather. We knew things were being whipped up into a frenzy, but not like this.

http://youtu.be/aByFu9qelck

With a report from The Canadian Press

What to expect Saturday and Sunday from the B.C. teachers’ strike

A sliver of optimism is visible this weekend as the two sides in the B.C. teachers’ strike remained silent Friday while lead negotiators met behind closed doors. Nevertheless, emotions continue to run high for parents, students and teachers, and there are several signs of that as the strike is almost certain to stretch into a 10th day of cancelled 2014-15 classes on Monday.

10 a.m. Sunday, Vancouver

A so-called “super rally” calling for arbitration is being organized at the Vancouver Art Gallery downtown for Sunday morning, plainly backing teachers. From the organizers:

This is going to be big. Organized by parents, backed by students. Arbitration is supported by public officials across the province, including the Vancouver City Mayor. We want to hear your voice in support of public education.

Attendees are being asked to wear red, and the rally will begin at the gallery’s north plaza. More details here.

5 p.m. Sunday, Surrey

A peaceful protest in support of public education will take place at Holland Park on Old Yale Rd., according to organizers.

Reported elsewhere

Raffi Cavoukian, the beloved children’s entertainer who has made no secret of his support for teachers and anger at the provincial government, wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post Friday detailing his position.

It pains me to conclude that my provincial government lacks heart, and it has its priorities backwards. It views public education as a costly burden, not an investment in kids, our future, and a requirement for enlightened culture.

Christy Clark Is Balancing the Budget at the Expense of Kids and Teachers

I’ve been reflecting on why the months-long dispute between the B.C. government and teachers has shaken me so. Why should I be this bothered about a labour dispute? Why am I so mad at Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender — aren’t there two sides to any story?


 

In a letter sent to The Globe and Mail this week, one teacher pulls no punches in his disdain for both sides but especially the union, and ends up supporting a legislated settlement:

Dear Editor:

For three months the teachers’ strike has seriously hurt students and parents, and sullied the image of the province. So a solution is long past due.

The BCTF is fighting an ideological, polarized battle against the government and has no intention of stopping its action, despite its futility, despite its cost to member teachers, despite its cost to students, despite its cost to public education (which it purports to defend).

Individual teachers cannot bring this strike action to an end. Article 1 of the BCTF Code of Ethics states: “The teacher acts in a manner not prejudicial to job actions or other collective strategies of her or his professional union.”

Parents are divided and busy making arrangements for their children, so their pressure, while appreciable, is not enough to end the strike.

So there is only one party left — the government. They have essential services law. The Minister of Labour can say the dispute threatens the health, safety, and welfare of people in the province, and especially students.

The ball is in the government’s court. Further inaction by Minister of Education Peter Fassbender is inexcusable and should cost him his job.

Jim McMurtry, public school teacher, Surrey

What to expect Friday from the B.C. teachers’ strike: Rallies, and hope at the bargaining table?

As parents and students prepare for rallies at at least two Vancouver schools Friday, news reports tell us there was a meeting Thursday between B.C. government negotiator Peter Cameron, BCTF president Jim Iker and mediator Vince Ready, and another planned at an undisclosed location Friday.

8:15 a.m., Vancouver

Noon, Burnaby

On Thursday, a catering owner posted to Facebook about a difficult job he’d taken on the day before: difficult because he was confronted at a Maple Ridge civic anniversary event that included an appearance by B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

Editorial: Two sides in education labour dispute must find an interim way to open schools

The Globe and Mail’s editorial board has weighed in on the B.C. teachers strike:

The constitutional question at the heart of the virulent conflict between the B.C. government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation should be dealt with at the slow, deliberate pace of the courts, while students and teachers (not to mention parents) can get on with their lives, under some sort of interim compromise.

B.C. schoolchildren can’t wait for a final Charter ruling