BC teacher talks could be put on hold

Provincial government now wants to negotiate a 10-year deal

AFTER four months of bargaining, talks between the teachers’ union and a provincial employers’ bargaining committee are set to stall while they await a new direction from the province.

In letters sent to the British Columbia Public Sector Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), the province says the mandate for negotiations put forward in February for a new contract to take hold this summer is set to be replaced by one that reflects the newly-elected BC Liberal campaign promise to negotiate a 10-year deal with teachers.

“With the election of a new government we are mindful of the BC Liberal election commitment ‘to immediately begin discussions with BCPSEA and the BC Teachers’ Federation to achieve a 10-year collective agreement’,” reads the letters, signed by deputy education minister James Gorman.

The documents go on to advise the parties to reconsider their upcoming bargaining dates until further notice, and notes a new cabinet will be appointed sometime in June.

June is when the parties were supposed to have an agreement in place, according to new bargaining guidelines set in place at the beginning of the year that included a specific timeline so negotiations would conclude in a timely manner.

A mutually-agreed upon facilitator, a common set of data and a rejigging of what is negotiated locally and what is negotiated provincially were also part of the new arrangement.

At the start of negotiations, Coast Mountains School District school board chair Art Erasmus said the new rules had him optimistic – but he cautioned that the election could trip up negotiations as the party elected would need to keep their election promises.

And speaking to reporters last week, Premier Christy Clark reiterated that she does not intend to spend more money on education.

“There will be calls to spend money,” Clark said. “For the next little while, our answer to most of those questions has to be no, not now.”

-With files from Tom Fletcher

BCTF Letter: http://www.scribd.com/doc/143491821/167616-BCTF

BCPSEA Letter: http://www.scribd.com/doc/143489421/167617-BCPSEA

(both letters via BCTF)

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