|The labour dispute between the Government of British Columbia and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) continued last week. With no new negotiations scheduled and mediators saying the two sides are too far apart to reach a deal, there is no indication students will be returning to school in the near future.
The two sides remain far apart on a range of issues:
Wages: The Province is offering a seven-per-cent increase over six years, while the teachers are asking for eight per cent over five years and a $5,000 signing bonus to compensate them for three years without pay increases.
Class size and composition: Teachers want $175 million in the contract’s first year and $225 million in subsequent years to hire more teachers to reduce class size and help special needs students. The Province is offering a $75-million Learning Improvement Fund that would be shared between the BCTF and education workers represented by CUPE.
Court grievance fund: The BCTF also wants $100 million over five years to deal with grievances stemming from two B.C. Supreme Court rulings that found B.C. Government laws restricting the union’s bargaining rights are unconstitutional. Negotiators for the Province want to set this request aside pending an appeal of the rulings.
Premier Christy Clark has called on the teachers to suspend the strike while bargaining continues, but angered teachers and their supporters by calling teacher demands unattainable. BCTF president Jim Iker said teachers will end their strike if the Province agrees to binding arbitration and to withdrawing a contentious clause that would give the B.C. government the power to nullify the BCTF’s court wins.
The dispute has left parents searching for various forms of child care. Thousands of parents with children 12 and under have applied to the B.C. Government to receive $40 for each day of school missed. Some parents have donated the money to teachers through a website called Families Funding Teachers. Other parents and students held demonstrations outside B.C. Liberal MLA offices. Meanwhile, enrolment in the province’s private schools is up 4.5 per cent this year.