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B.C. Teachers protest outside the BC NDP Convention where Premier John Horgan and Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will be speaking at the Victoria Convention Centre in Victoria, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Canadian Press

Throngs of teachers hoping to draw attention to stalled contract talks have staged a rally outside a venue in Victoria where British Columbia’s New Democrats are holding an annual convention.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring joined union members as an estimated 800 NDP delegates gathered to vote on policy initiatives that could be adopted by the party.

The union has said more teachers must be hired but Education Minister Rob Fleming maintains the province made efforts to recruit over 900 out-of-province teachers last year and increased funding for all 60 school districts.

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The B.C. Public School Employers Association has offered wage hikes of two per cent annually for a three-year term in keeping with what other public-sector employees have accepted, but the teachers’ union has rejected the increase.

Teachers have been without a contract since last June, but no settlement has been reached despite the involvement of a mediator.

Mooring told teachers that as the Opposition, the New Democrats criticized the former Liberal government’s gutting of class size and student composition provisions from the contract, but now the party is not standing up for public education.

She said teachers were shocked to see an NDP proposal to eliminate class composition language from the contract and the union won’t accept that from the employer.

Mooring said there is still a shortage of nearly 400 teachers in the province and that has led to the recruitment of uncertified and unqualified teachers.

Talks are expected to resume next month, and Fleming said he’s pleased the union and the employers’ association agreed to work with a mediator.

“Negotiations are a give-and-take process. It is our hope that both sides will take time to consider this constructive path forward and consult their memberships,” he said in a statement.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2019

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