A year in the trenches for B.C. teachers and the ministry of education has found peace.
The teachers’ union is recommending its members accept a one-year temporary collective agreement that was put forth Tuesday evening.
The contract is essentially a roll-over from the teachers’ last contract, which expired one year ago, with some improvements to teacher benefits, but no wage increases, or changes in class size and composition – both of which were contentious issues early on in negotiations.
When outgoing CTA president Katharin Midzain was notified of the deal, she said a wave of relief washed over her.
“It’s always better to come to an agreement rather than have something imposed on you – always better,” she said.
“[This agreement] means that teachers, parents and the public can go into the summer knowing that next year there will be a stable base that we can work from.”
For the past year the teachers’ union and the government have been butting heads, which resulted in limited job action from September to March, a three-day full-scale walkout, a province-wide withdrawal of extracurricular activities, back-to-work legislation being imposed, and threats for more extracurricular activity withdrawals for next year.
Midzain said that while this tentative agreement is a beginning, there are still some “sticky issues” needing to be hammered out, like class size and composition, that she hopes will be resolved in the next bargaining round.
“We’ll be negotiating again in eight months and hopefully, with these things out of the way, we won’t have as big a package to deal with next year,” she said.
“I’m hoping we can really focus on the other things.”
Meanwhile, Chilliwack board of education is “cautiously optimistic” with the news.
“The Board of Education is cautiously optimistic that the settlement will benefit our students, staff, parents, and community,” but “we don’t have all the details at this time,” said board chair Louise Piper. “We will know more once the ratification vote has taken place.”
Teachers are voting on the deal this week.