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.

Scenes from teacher ratification votes across B.C.

From Andrea Woo:

Just spoke with five teachers outside the voting site in Vancouver and three of them voted against the tentative agreement. The two who voted for it did so grudgingly, saying they couldn’t afford to lose any more money on the picket lines — some have lost around $10,000 — and that they’re worried public perception will turn against them if they vote no. All of them are disappointed with the agreement, but feel it will pass. Several long-time teachers have told me that if they were just starting out today, they wouldn’t get into teaching.


 

Many local teachers’ associations set up information study sessions and voting meetings for teachers today, and tweets show throngs of teachers eager to participate in the process.

From Coquitlam:

From Saanich:

From Surrey:

From Vancouver:

What to expect Thursday as B.C. teachers vote on the tentative agreement

 

Brentwood Bay Elementary teachers from left to right: Rhayna Archer, Fiona Mosher, Carmen Di Lucca, Jacqueline Jim and Aimee Lampard in Brentwood Bay, B.C., will be among the teachers voting Thursday on whether to ratify a tentative settlement  that would end the strike which began in June. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

Brentwood Bay Elementary teachers (from left to right) Rhayna Archer, Fiona Mosher, Carmen Di Lucca, Jacqueline Jim and Aimee Lampard in Brentwood Bay, B.C., will be among the teachers voting Thursday on whether to ratify a tentative settlement that would end the strike which began in June. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

B.C.’s 40,000 public-school teachers will cast their votes today on the collective agreement achieved by the union and the government after marathon bargaining sessions over the weekend. Results of the vote will be released at 9:30 p.m. in a news conference by BCTF president Jim Iker (streaming link here), and we’ll have them available in a story on our B.C. teachers’ strike topic page.

Study sessions are being held this morning for members so they can learn more about the proposed six-year deal and ask questions. Online, the union posted a one-page PDF entitled “10 reasons to vote yes” as commentators online debate the merits of the agreement. The proposed contract includes a 7.25 per cent salary increase, improvements in extended health benefits and the teaching-on-call rate, an education fund to address class size and composition issues, and money to address retroactive grievances.

The question being put to teachers is this:

Are you in favour of ratifying the agreement-in-committee reached on September 16, 2014?

The deal must also be ratified by the employer. According to a letter sent to parents in the Central Okanagan school district by superintendent Hugh Gloster, the province’s 60 school districts have until 3 p.m. Friday to complete their own ratification vote. If BCTF members ratify Thursday night, however, schools will be open Friday morning and teachers doing prep work will be on the payroll.

Reported elsewhere

Private schools are reporting an overall 5 per cent uptick in enrolment in B.C. over last year, a sign that some parents weren’t prepared to wait for public schools to open. Rates vary across the province based in part on independent schools’ capacity to accept new students, but history shows the public system may have lost many students for good. Says Peter Froese of the Federation of Independent School Associations of BC:

“In our experience, based on past labour disruptions in the public sector, we find that the families that have chosen independent schools in… our fixed structures — they tend to stay.”


While many questions about the school schedule will be worked out at a local level by school districts or even individual schools, there are mandated hours of instruction for public school students in B.C.:

Under the School Act’s school calendar regulation, school districts must offer the following minimum hours of instruction annually: 853 for kindergarten, 878 for grades 1 to 7, and 952 for grades 8 to 12.

With reports from Justine Hunter, Andrea Woo and The Canadian Press

Could B.C. teachers end up voting no to the tentative deal?

As details of the tentative agreement between the teachers’s union and the government emerged Tuesday, the terms of the deal came under increased scrutiny, especially by teachers. Though it’s hard to tell how broad the support is for the ‘vote no’ movement, it has caused a lot of chatter online in the past 12 hours (UPDATE: See our full story on this subject). Here are two points of view as teachers prepare to vote on Thursday:

Argument for voting no, by Tara Ehrcke:

Staffroom Confidential

Argument for voting yes, by Sandy Garossino:

Should teachers accept the contract? (with tweets) · Sandy Garossino

What’s your opinion?

 

Photos: Darryl Dyck for The Globe and Mail (left), Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail (right).

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.

 

B.C. Premier comments on teachers’ strike

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listens during a gathering with cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders in Vancouver, on Thursday September 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listens during a gathering with cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders in Vancouver, on Thursday September 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Premier Christy Clark had a media availability at a meeting of B.C. cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders moments ago and, not surprisingly, the questions quickly turned to the teachers’ strike.

A few of her remarks:

On rejecting binding arbitration:

I, as a leader, and the [B.C. Teachers’ Federation] as leaders of their union, were elected, among other things, to negotiate agreements. I am not prepared to step away and shirk that responsibility by giving it to somebody else. I feel a duty to do this. In addition to that though, we know what binding arbitration would result in: higher taxes. So I have a duty to resolve the agreement in a way that’s fair and respectful for teachers and that’s fair for taxpayers across the province. It’s a pretty broad responsibility; difficult things to try and balance but I’m determined to do it.

On legislating teachers back to work:

My position on [ending the strike] hasn’t changed. I want to get a negotiated agreement; I intend to get one. I think as long as we keep our eyes focused on that goal, it will remain in our reach. The minute we take our eyes off that goal, I think it will begin to elude us. I think a negotiated agreement is good for the teachers’ union and I know it’s good for kids in the long-term in B.C.

On international students dropping out of B.C. schools and her upcoming (Oct. 9) trade mission to India:

I’m very hopeful that schools will be back – in fact I’m certain schools will be back – in session by the time I go to India. It’s a major, major source of international students for us potentially. [It’s] the fastest growing middle class in the world and [does not have] enough educational facilities. They need to partner with B.C. to try and help their dreams come true in that country.

On the current level of anger and emotion in the labour dispute: 

I understand that for a lot of people, this is hitting them very personally; for teachers, hitting them in their pocketbook; for parents and students, hitting them in their education, concerned about their future. I want to get those kids and those teachers back into their classes. The only way we’ll do that is if we keep our emotions level and approach this as thoughtfully as we can. That’s really what’s incumbent on those of us who are the leaders on each side of the table, on the government’s side and on the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s side. I think we’re going to be able to do that. Despite some of the emotions, understandably, that we see in the public, and in the union membership, as long as the leaders decide we want to treat this thoughtfully and rationally, I believe we can get an agreement. I really do.

Group solicits donations to send ‘5 angry teachers’ to B.C. Liberal fundraiser

Teachers crowdfunding for tickets at BC Liberal event

While BC students are still not in classes the BC Liberals are having yet another golf course fundraiser. Since MLA’s and Liberal party members refuse to meet with us to discuss the future of education, we are seeking help to buy a table at the fundraiser to make our voices heard face to face….

Striking teachers are hoping to crash a B.C. Liberal party fundraiser by buying tickets to a party event at a golf course. While the party plans to set up a place for protests to be heard outside, teachers are using an online fundraiser of their own to buy their way inside.

“While B.C. students are still not in classes the BC Liberals are having yet another golf course fundraiser.  Since MLAs and Liberal party members refuse to meet with us to discuss the future of education, we are seeking help to buy a table at the fundraiser to make our voices heard face to face,” organizers state on their GoFundMe website.

“You can rest assured that the 5 angry teachers who are planning to attend will be happy to share any and all of your valuable concerns with our most trusted leaders.” As of Thursday afternoon, they were close to reaching their $1,000 target.

Jillian Stead, a media spokesperson for the B.C. Liberals, said the party is planning to provide an outlet for protest at a fundraiser on Friday in a designated area, but protestors will not be invited out on the golf course. The event isn’t even advertised on the party’s website.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said in an interview that he respects the right of teachers to demonstrate, but added: “I would only hope that it remains respectful. …  It’s unfortunate when it gets out of hand. This is an emotion time for everyone – for me as well. I don’t like where we are. We need to get back to the bargaining table.”

UPDATE as of 1:30 p.m. on Friday: The group, in a message posted to the GoFundMe page, says it has reached its fundraising goal:

Thank you all so much for your support in our fight to improve public education in BC. In four days, we have surpassed our fundraising goal. YOU ALL ARE AMAZING! We are now closing the draw for the extra seats as of 9am, today, September 12. Winners will be notified soon. Any donations that continue to come in will go to the BCTF Hardship Relief Fund. Thank you!

What to expect Thursday from B.C.’s teachers’ strike: Why the 99.4% BCTF vote figure is misleading

If you’re looking for information on Thursday, Sept. 18, go here.

Late Wednesday night, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker stood before TV cameras to report that 99.4% of teachers who voted were in favour of ending the strike if the government would agree to drop proposed provision E-80 and accept binding arbitration. The figure is high, and has been cited often this morning on social media and in news reports. But it’s worth noting that the BCTF represents approximately 41,000 public school teachers, meaning around 10,331 teachers didn’t cast votes. That would put the number of ‘yes’ votes at 30,485, or 74.4% of BCTF members.

What to expect Thursday

There are no events scheduled from either bargaining group, though teacher picket lines are still up across the province. As always, we’re keeping an eye out for significant events.

Reported elsewhere

Following news of the BCTF vote, CBC Radio’s The Early Edition interviewed both Mr. Iker and B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender on the results and the stalemate that is keeping schools closed. The audio of that interview is below, including a remark from Mr. Fassbender at the 16:40 mark that prompted host Rick Cluff to exclaim: “You’re going to wait till October?”


BC’s small businesses are worried about the BCTF strike: CFIB

Nearly half of BC small businesses say the teachers’ strike will have a negative impact on their bottom line, according to a new survey.