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.

Worth reading: Pondering the best way to execute change in the education system

A B.C. blogger who has been a District Parent Advisory Council president, among other education-related roles, published a post Sunday on the difficulties of making change in the education system. Heidi Hass Gable‘s thesis in the post is that transformational change, if done using a “start fresh” approach, could jeopardize the future of a cohort of students, and that no child’s future is expendable in this way. She finds herself concerned with the aims of both sides in the teachers’ labour dispute:

Simply moving to smaller class sizes or hiring more specialist teachers won’t suddenly make our school system truly inclusive – it won’t necessarily meet the needs of our most complex and vulnerable learners. That’s the part of the BCTF’s approach that worries me the most – it lacks strategy and, I fear, threatens to entrench our system further into dysfunctional paradigms. More of what we used to have isn’t necessarily what we need now.

We need to see both an investment in education AND we need thoughtful, focused strategies for using that money to meet the needs of all students! How would we do that?

We need a clear focus and commitment (or we need to demand this) from government on a transition that doesn’t “throw away” kids who need more help in the meantime. We need leadership in setting our “direction” as inclusive (first and foremost) AND personalized/relevant – and the planning/funding to match.

Read the rest of her argument via the link below.

I was thinking…

I’ve been pondering change in education quite a lot – for many years. I’ve been a parent of three wonderful (and non-neurotypical) kids in the public system for twelve years now. I was DPAC president for almost six years. I’ve been on Ministry and District advisory committees.


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.


Ontario teachers donate $100k to BCTF

Unionized teachers in Ontario have tossed another $100,000 into the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s hat to support striking teachers.

The Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) and three affiliate members — the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation — announced the decision in a news release issued Friday.

“Speaking on behalf of 160,000 teachers in Ontario’s public education system, it is an honour to stand in solidarity with the BC teachers,” OTF President Rian McLaughlin said in the news release. “Their struggle is our struggle. The BC teachers have been in this conflict for over ten years and it is time for the BC Government to admit their mistakes.”

Earlier this week, various B.C. unions came together to give and loan the BCTF nearly $9-million. (Read our story on that here.) That money goes into a general hardship fund, from which teachers struggling financially can apply for interest-free loans. It’s unclear if this latest contribution will go into that same fund.

Last spring, a group of Ontario teachers’ unions donated $2-million, which helped pay for a fourth day of strike pay.

The average B.C. teacher has lost at least $6,000 since the start of the strike.

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.

Grade 3 student gives up Katy Perry ticket to donate to teachers

Renzey Rozman, eight, on the picket lines with striking B.C. teachers. Renzey gave up her Katy Perry tickets to donate the $250 to teachers instead. (Photo courtesy Erin Rozman)

Renzey Rozman, eight, on the picket lines with striking B.C. teachers. Renzey gave up her Katy Perry tickets to donate the $250 to teachers instead. (Photo courtesy Erin Rozman)

This is cute: Katy Perry is Renzey Rozman’s favourite singer, and for a long time the eight-year-old Westwind Elementary student had been hoping to go to the pop star’s concert at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. On Tuesday, the day of the show, mom Erin Rozman scoured Craigslist and found a pair of tickets for $250 each. Mom wasn’t exactly thrilled about going herself, but figured she’d treat her daughter.

Then a news segment about the B.C. teachers’ strike came on.

“Renzey and I had just been on the picket line with [Westwind teachers] for an hour-and-a-half the day before, and she had heard that their strike fund ran out after four days,” Ms. Rozman said in an interview on Wednesday. “She said, ‘Katy Perry is making millions of dollars and the teachers aren’t making any money.'”

When Ms. Rozman — herself president of the Douglas College Faculty Association — mentioned the tickets were $250, her daughter asked: “Can we give it to the teachers instead?”

“It warmed my heart,” Ms. Rozman said. “My mom is a retired BCTF teacher. I thought, ‘Something I’ve taught has gone through.’ My little social activist. I’m just so proud of her.”

The money will go into a hardship fund for teachers facing financial difficulties.

* * * * * * * *

Thursday, Sept. 11 update: Katy Perry’s team heard about Renzey and hooked her up!

On Wednesday night, just two hours before the start of Katy Perry’s second (and last) show in Vancouver, the singer’s manager emailed Renzey.

“We heard about your selfless gesture of donating your Katy Perry tickets to benefit your teachers,” the email read. “Since you missed last night’s show, Katy would like to offer you free tickets to her 2nd concert (tonight!) in Vancouver.”

Ms. Rozman said her daughter “squealed in delight.”

“The artist will call ticket window woman knew Renzey by name and complimented her profusely,” Ms. Rozman said. “It was a night she’ll never forget.

“Even from the picket line, those teachers managed to teach a very important lesson — and show one eight-year-old that miracles can happen when people care. What an unexpected and amazing experience.”

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B.C. teachers vote 99.4% for binding arbitration

BCTF President Jim Iker speaking a news conference Wednesday night.

BCTF President Jim Iker speaking a news conference Wednesday night.

Members of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of binding arbitration — but what does it mean when the B.C. government has repeatedly stated that it’s never going to happen?

At a news conference held Wednesday night, BCTF President Jim Iker announced that 99.4 per cent of the union’s membership — that’s 30,490 out of 30,669 — voted yes to binding arbitration. That tosses the ball into the B.C. Liberals’ court, according to Mr. Iker.

“Unfortunately tonight, there is a single group of people standing in the way of our schools opening their doors tomorrow,” Mr. Iker said. “The BC Liberals’ refusal to accept binding arbitration is now the only reason children won’t be back in class.”

B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who has described binding arbitration as financially irresponsible, and handing over responsibility to a third party, said Wednesday night’s vote results were “widely expected and understandable.”

“We know B.C. teachers want schools re-opened,” he said in a statement. “That is a goal we all share. As we have consistently made clear, binding arbitration would lead to unacceptable tax increases in this case. That’s because the two side remain too far apart on wages and benefits.

“The best way to resolve this labour dispute remains at the negotiating table.”

And so the stalemate continues. How long can this go on? Will this end in the B.C. government legislating teachers back to work? Maybe.

For those interested, here‘s the BCTF’s framework for settlement through binding arbitration.

The scene at Van Tech

Drama teacher Ramona Orr makes bannock and chicken soup for striking teachers at Vancouver Technical School. (Andrea Woo/The Globe and Mail)

Drama teacher Ramona Orr makes bannock and chicken soup for striking teachers at Vancouver Technical School. (Andrea Woo/The Globe and Mail)

Just a quick post from Vancouver Technical School, where the B.C. Federation of Labour just announced it would be committing $8-million in interest-free loans to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. (See our earlier post about that.)

Lots of support from passing drivers during the event. Lots of honks and shouts of support. I spoke with several picketing teachers and asked how they’ve been getting by financially since the strike began and one said she and her partner, who’s also a teacher, have taken up painting contracts. Another took a construction job. Another said he’s just spending less, and that he doesn’t care if he has to eat beans and rice to stick this out. Another said she’ll be dipping into her line of credit soon. Sure shows their resolve.

Regardless of who wins, teachers getting ready for showdown

Teachers unions are getting ready for a showdown with the province, whichever party wins on June 12 (though clearly they are not happy with Tim Hudak’s proposals). Caroline Alphonso reports, in an article for subscribers:

Parents and students who vividly remember last year’s teacher walkouts and the loss of extracurricular programs may find it alarming that more than 550 Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation members will hold a special meeting next Saturday.

And the union is adamant that teachers will not accept more pay cuts. “I don’t expect to walk to the table and have to bargain against myself. I expect there to be some money on the table,” Paul Elliott, the union’s president, told The Globe and Mail.

Read more.

Ontario Greens: Let’s do away with the Catholic school system

The Ontario Green Party released their campaign platform today. But the headline promise isn’t about the environment — it’s about education.

The Greens are pledging to eliminate the Catholic school system and merge all the schools under one umbrella (well, two: one for English, one for French). That move, they say, would save money in administration costs and reduce the need to close schools.

In their explainer, the Greens say the Catholic system is archaic:

But we have always had Catholic education, why change now?

There are lots of ways our education system has changed over the years. We used to re-train children who were left-handed to write with their right hands. We’ve decided to move on from that one. We also used to have prayer and Bible stories in the classroom in the public board. As our society changed our education system has changed. With the threat of closing schools and cuts to education now is the time to talk about ending the wasteful duplication.