Chilliwack school trustees fear the B.C. government could be setting them up for another funding shortfall with teacher contract negotiations.
The provincial government is angling for a 10-year contract with B.C. teachers, however, as it stands now, school boards will have very little say in those negotiations, said Chilliwack trustee Barry Neufeld.
This summer, the ministry of education essentially did away with the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and announced it would be restructuring the K-12 bargaining process to give the government more autonomy over contract negotiations.
BCPSEA was the accredited bargaining agent for the province’s 60 public boards of education for unionized teaching and support staff. It had representation from school boards and government.
“The government is stripping the power and authority of local school boards,” Neufeld said.
Without school board representation in contract negotiations, Neufeld believes boards would be fitted the bill for the pay raises and other concessions.
“The only way the teachers are going to agree to anything is if they’re given considerable concessions that will last for 10 years,” said Neufeld, “which means we’ll have to scrounge around, and cut here and cut there so we can give our employees a raise.”
Chilliwack is joining other trustees from around the province to present a unified voice in opposition of the government taking sole control of negotiations.
“We want to retain the right to approve final bargaining at the local level before the contract is signed,” said Neufeld. “We’re also insisting that if [the government] is going to give teachers a raise, they’ve got to give [school districts] more money to pay for the raise.”
The Fraser Valley branch of trustees are meeting this Thursday to discuss the issue, and later this month trustees from across B.C. will also be meeting.