B.C. Premier Christy Clark says her government wants to escape the cycle of acrimonious bargaining with the province’s teachers and, unlike in past disputes, is refusing to legislate them back to work – at least for the time being.
“I think we should see if we can bargain this, if we can get a deal, if we can break the pattern of the last 30 years – governments of all stripes legislating teachers back to work,” Ms. Clark told reporters following an unrelated speech in Vancouver on Monday. “I believe there is an agreement there to be had – one that addresses class composition which is hugely important for both of us on both sides of the table, and one that gives teachers a raise that they deserve.”
After a weekend of intense negotiating, the two sides remained apart only by a percentage point on wages. However, benefit demands by the teachers make up a considerable amount of the gulf between the two sides, as do teachers’ demands for a return to 2002 levels on class size and composition.
The government’s decision not to legislate teachers back to work means the remaining two weeks of the school year have been written off, but the government is still hoping for a resolution to the dispute by June 30. Here’s a look at the most recent proposals from each side:
B.C. Teachers’ Federation: Five years (July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2018).
B.C. Public School Employers’ Association: Six years (July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2019) with the option of increasing to seven years to secure an additional wage increase.
BCTF: 3.5 per cent in the first year, followed by 1.5 per cent a year for the following three years, for a total of 8 per cent, not compounded. The proposal also includes an additional increase equal to the difference between the actual and forecasted GDP.
BCPSEA: July, 2014: 1 per cent, February, 2015: 2 per cent, July, 2016: 1 per cent, July, 2017: 0.5 per cent, May, 2018: 1 per cent, July, 2018: 0.5 per cent, May, 2019: 1 per cent, for a total of 7 per cent, not compounded. The proposal also includes an Economic Stability Dividend – an automatic wage increase if the economy performs better than forecast – in four instalments. If the contract term is extended to seven years, teachers would get additional wage increases of 0.5 per cent in July, 2019 and 1 per cent in May, 2020.
BCTF: Improvements to the extended health benefits plan such as $3,000 of massage therapy per year and the inclusion of fertility drugs. The BCTF is also seeking improvements to the dental plan, continuation of benefits for dependents 12 months after a teacher’s death, and for teachers on long-term disability to receive the same benefits coverage as those who are working, among other things.
BCPSEA: The employer is providing no details on benefits. Instead, it has proposed increasing benefit payments within the same limits as the salary increases. At the end of the contract, that would mean an extra pool of money worth $11-million, and how that gets distributed would be decided through a collaborative process involving both sides.
Pregnancy/parental supplemental employment benefits
BCTF: For mothers the union is looking to top up between EI and the employee’s salary to 100 per cent for the first 17 weeks, then to 60 per cent for the remaining 35 weeks. The BCTF is asking for fathers’ salaries to be topped up to 100 per cent for the first two weeks, then 60 per cent for the additional 35 weeks.
BCPSEA: No details provided. Any changes to pregnancy and parental benefits would come from the same pool of money as the other benefits.
Class size and composition
BCTF: Establishment of a new Workload Fund (amount not specified) to be used for hiring new teachers. Teachers want the Supreme Court decision ordering a return to 2002 class-size and composition limits restored within their collective agreements.
BCPSEA: No change to current class-size limits. The government’s appeal of the B.C. Supreme Court ruling will proceed.