The B.C. government is following through on Premier Christy Clark’s commitment to pursue an unprecedented 10-year labour deal with teachers by injecting the concept into ongoing talks for a new contract.
Letters from the deputy education minister dated Friday rescind a previous bargaining mandate for negotiators on behalf of the government and highlight the 10-year proposal as a point of negotiation, and also do the same for the president of the B.C. Teachers Federation.
In a letter to federation president Susan Lambert, deputy minister James Gorman notes the proposal “has the potential to significantly affect the present round of collective bargaining.”
Ms. Clark and Education Minister Don McRae announced the idea in January, suggesting it held the potential to allow young students to go through their school careers without labour disruptions.
Since last week’s provincial election, in which the Liberals won more seats as they earned a fourth straight majority, Ms. Clark has re-emphasized the idea as a continuing priority.
She touted it during a speech to Liberal candidates, both successful and unsuccessful, that was open to the media.
“We want labour peace for our kids in schools,” she said. “We always have acrimony and when we have acrimony, kids lose. We can get that acrimony out of the classroom and wait 10 years until we start bargaining again.”
But the letters confirm that Ms. Clark is intent on taking the idea beyond the proposal stage to a point of talks to reach the next deal with the province’s teachers.
In the letter to Ms. Lambert, Mr. Gorman says he will try to set up a meeting between her and the education minister “in order to discuss the path forward.”
It is unclear whether Mr. McRae will remain education minister when Ms. Clark appoints a new cabinet.
At this point, the teachers are trying to negotiate a three-year deal.
Ms. Lambert said Friday that teachers are wary at being locked into such a long-term agreement. “A 10-year deal proposes to predict a decade of stasis,” she said in an interview.
She also said, despite the letter, that she had learned of the proposal from the media, not the government – something she found disrespectful.
“This took us by surprise this afternoon,” she said.
In January, Ms. Clark said the so-called “Framework For Long Term Stability in Education” would offer teachers various benefits in return for an agreement to a 10-year deal.
They included the indexing of public-school teachers salaries to increases in the B.C. public sector, as well as a formal role in education-policy decisions and input in allocating a $100-million education investment fund that would be available in the third year of the deal.
Also promised is a “new structured and transparent bargaining process.”
The government said it had drafted the proposal with input from various stakeholders, including the teachers federation, the B.C. school trustees association and the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.