BCPSEA calls teacher strike vote premature

The government responds to BCTF's call for a strike vote

The provincial government has called the teacher strike vote uncivilized and premature.

Peter Cameron, chief negotiator with the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), said he was surprised to learn of the strike vote announced by BCTF earlier that day.

Especially given that the BCTF, he said, had not yet presented a negotiating position of its own.

“In the absence of a salary position from the union, [the strike vote] is particularly striking,” Cameron said in a news conference held Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s fine to be in a reason-based contest between our position and a position we haven’t even seen yet, but if the union wants to get into that kind of debate, they do have an obligation to put their position forward for public discussion.”

Earlier Tuesday, BCTF held a press conference lambasting the government for unfair negotiating practices. The union outlined the government’s salary offer that included a 0.5 per cent increase at ratification. Because the current contract ended last year, that means the union will have been without a wage increase for four years.

However, Cameron emphasized that position as an opening position.

“I just think it’s extraordinary to go to the public and to their members and say ‘Look at this opening position, isn’t it terrible?’ without using the word opening,” said Cameron.

“And once again, I’m asking, where’s their opening position anyway?”

Cameron recognized the tactic as a pressure tactic for the government, but said that parents and the school community as a whole should be concerned.

“The long-term consequences of friction within the school system, that should be a concern to everybody,” said Cameron.

The two agencies have been in contract negotiations for a full year. Prior to Tuesday, it had been fairly amicable with all details discussed at the table, not in public.

Chilliwack Board of Education was neutral in its reaction to the strike vote.

“We are optimistic that ongoing contract talks between the BCTF and the government will bring resolution to the matters related to provincial bargaining as soon as possible,” said board chair Walt Krahn in an email response to The Progress.

The strike vote is next week on March 4, 5, and 6. If the majority is in favour, the union has 90 days to activate job action.