Talks with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association have stalled over proposals on class sizes and composition that would undo the federation’s Supreme Court win, says B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Glen Hansman
Vancouver teachers say they’re shocked and disheartened by the provincial government’s tough position in collective bargaining.
Educators said they didn’t expect the B.C. NDP, which vocally supported their legal battle against the B.C. Liberal government, to table the same changes to class composition and teacher ratios that led to their 2016 landmark Supreme Court victory.
“It feels like déjà vu,” said Treena Goolieff, a vice-president at the Vancouver Secondary Teacher’s Association. “Which we never expected given we have a different government that is actually quite supportive of what public education stands for. But that doesn’t feel like it’s true right now.”
Talks with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association have stalled over proposals on class sizes and composition that would undo the federation’s Supreme Court win, B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Glen Hansman told Postmedia on Friday.
He believes the proposal, which would increase class sizes in dense areas like Vancouver, would disproportionately affect teacher workloads in urban areas.
“It would be a one size-fits-all to the entire province that’s worse than what currently exists,” he said. “This is going to take us backwards.”
Chloë McKnight, president of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association, says many of her organizations members campaigned for the NDP because they hoped they would get better treatment at the bargaining table.
Now, she’s worried her workload might actually grow.
“We hear from teachers all the time who are just feeling really frustrated with the lack of support or feeling burnt out,” said McKnight. “And that would just get worse.”
The employers association have defended their proposal, noting it includes $400 million more in funding than the previous government’s deal to go toward class sizes, class composition and non-enrolling teachers, like teacher librarians.
Finance minister Carole James said Tuesday that the employers’ proposals are “changes” and not concessions.
“The BCTF views any change for one local or one district as a concession,” said Alan Chell, chairman of the Revelstoke Board of Education.
“We’re very open to talk about the best way of spending money, but every government in the world has mandates and budgets … this government is very friendly towards public education.” he said.
B.C. teachers have a minimum starting salary of $49,376, the second-lowest in the country after Quebec.
McKnight says that low salary, coupled with high living costs, is already contributing to a shortage of teachers in the province. She’s worried a bad collective agreement will continue to discourage teachers from coming to B.C.
“We had a lot of new teachers come after our court win (in 2016) but a lot of them have left because they just couldn’t make it work,” said McKnight.
For Goolieff, who was on the picket lines in 2014 during five weeks of rotating strikes, it’s an unwelcome reminder of the past and a bad omen for the future.
She and McKnight hope the two sides come to a resolution before the collective agreement expires on June 30, to avoid the dispute dragging into the next school year.
“I was absolutely expecting a different story, but the BCPSEA is operating exactly as they were in 2014,” she said.
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