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Teri Mooring, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), said the main sticking points in negotiations are teacher salaries and student learning conditions.

HO/The Canadian Press

Contract negotiations between B.C. teachers and their employer have reached an impasse with the teachers’ rejection of settlement recommendations from a mediator.

Teri Mooring, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), said the main sticking points are teacher salaries and student learning conditions. Ms. Mooring said B.C. teachers have the second lowest starting salary in the country, which has led to recruitment and retention challenges and a teacher shortage crisis.

“The result of the teacher shortage is an unprecedented number of qualified and non-certified adults teaching in classrooms across B.C.,” Ms. Mooring said in a statement over the weekend. “The shortage has also caused significant disruptions to students with special needs.”

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Mediator David Schaub had issued a report this month recommending the BCTF accept an offer from the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) – which negotiates on behalf of the province – of a three-year contract with an annual 2-per-cent wage increase. The report was made public on Friday.

Under B.C.’s Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate, any public-sector union that receives more than 2-per-cent per year would trigger a “me too” salary clause that would be applied to all other agreements.

The union says making adjustments to the salary grid would put teachers closer to a meaningful wage increase without triggering the clause.

“Teachers are seeking the same kind of grid adjustments that other unions, such as the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and the BC Nurses’ Union, were able to achieve in this round under the same mandate,” Ms. Mooring said.

The report also recommended a mediated process to access $25.6-million in funding over three years earmarked for service improvements.

BCPSEA board chair Alan Chell called the BCTF rejection a “missed opportunity” to move forward.

“We are concerned that the BCTF continues to take an approach that will not lead to a freely negotiated collective agreement,” Mr. Chell said in a statement.

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The previous BC Liberal government stripped teachers of the right to negotiate class size and composition – the number of students with special needs – in 2002. The Supreme Court of Canada restored the old contract language in 2016 after a lengthy legal battle.

Mr. Chell said the BCPSEA will continue to negotiate the class size and composition language, which it has the right to do “and which boards told us needs to change so they can more effectively provide the services to students that they need in 2020 and beyond.”

The two sides began negotiations in February and have been in mediation since July.

Ms. Mooring said the union will seek more dates for talks with the employer.

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