Teachers in a stalemate

Provincial negotiations have stalled; no public outcry means no pressure

Negotiations between teachers and the province are at an impasse. The teacher’s work to rule job action isn’t having much impact and while the two sides are still meeting, there hasn’t been any progress in the five month strike.

“Negotiations are not rolling anywhere,” said School District 69 (Qualicum) superintendent Jim Ansell of the provincial level negotiations.

The lack of impact on the system may be good news for students and parents, but it also means there’s no pressure to resolve it.

“As long as there’s no public outcry the government is feeling no pressure,” Ansell said.

He explained that principals, vice principals and exempt district staff are working so hard, less than half of parents in a recent provincial poll knew there was a strike on.

“It reflects well on the teachers, they’re doing great work, in a way they’re their own worst enemies.”

He said the strain is showing in some ways, three principals have taken some time off this year, though not necessarily directly related.

It’s unfortunate teachers and the school system are “not able to focus on what we’re good at,” he said.

Both sides say they have made concessions in their bargaining position, the BC Teacher’s Federation scaled back their wage demands and the government offered a small lump cash sum, but still don’t appear any closer together.

The government is sticking to it’s zero net mandate to not allow any public employee wage increases and the teacher’s union says it needs cost of living increases at the very least.

District 69 board chair Lynette Kershaw said she is not seeing a lot of impact in the district and also credits district staff for the extra work and teachers for continuing to communicate with parents and focusing on teaching.

“There are lots of factors, lots has been stripped away from teachers that needs to be revisited,” she said.

In reference to parts of Bills 27 and 28 that where found unconstitutional last year, she said “class size and composition are important issues and we can’t loose sight of that as part of the negotiations.”

“I’d like to see intensive bargaining, with the net zero mandate, it’s really hard to bargain nothing.”

“People are feeling the frustration,” said trustee Barry Kurland at the latest school board meeting. He is the liaison to the BC Public School Employers’ Association which negotiates on behalf of the government, but he is not at the table.

“The main feeling is that the negotiation has to continue, we’ll get through this, the process is one of hope,” he said. “everybody is on the side of public education.”