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.

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.