Premier Christy Clark's proposal for 10-year teacher contracts as a solution to labour strife raised misgivings from both sides of the fence in Kamloops on Wednesday.
According to a provincial announcement, the review of the teacher bargaining process will involve government, the British Columbia Teachers' Federation and other education stakeholders with an eye to systemic improvements prior to the next round of bargaining.
"Imagine being able to negotiate a 10-year deal," said Clark. "Imagine a child starting Grade 2 this year moving through to graduation without ever having to experience labour unrest again. Can it be done? I don't know. Is it worth trying? Absolutely."
Both Kamloops-Thompson School District board chair Denise Harper and Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association president Jason Karpuk expressed misgivings about details of Clark's announced plan to review the dysfunctional teacher contract bargaining process.
Karpuk said that a 10-year deal has pros and cons, but it would be a hard sell for teachers because there's little way of anticipating needs arising five or more years down the road.
"Nobody likes labour unrest," he said. "But 10 years is a long, long time."
He added that discord could be helped if bargaining was "fruitful" rather than restricted because of the stripping of negotiating articles in 2001, a move that's still in the midst of a legal battle.
Karpuk said if the province wants to heal friction, it should begin by reinstating the ability to bargain over class size and composition and ratios of specialty teachers like learning assistant teachers, librarians and teacher counsellors.
"I think (stripping those bargaining rights) makes the unrest that's in the teaching profession that much more evident because it does affect students and seems to drag out because we're so tied to what we can address within the contract."
Harper said she welcomes a review and believes the negotiation process needs an overhaul.
But the very items Karpuk feels should remain part of the bargaining process are the ones Harper feels should stay out since those bog things down.
"A lot of time seems to be spent on social issues like the funding of education."
A collective agreement should deal with such things as working conditions and salary, said Harper.
But she also expressed reservations to 10-year contracts since that, too, could prolong the process.
"It gives me some concern. I'd be interested to hear what the union's response would be. I wonder if that would be a stumbling block."
Consultations with education stakeholders will occur through October and early November and are expected to include school trustees, school administrators and parent groups, according to a provincial news release.
Feedback from these consultations will inform policy or legislative changes to be implemented before bargaining starts next spring.
"We need to move quickly to ensure that when negotiations resume early next year, they start on the best possible footing," said Don McRae, education minister.
Labour disputes and legislative intervention have characterized teacher bargaining in B.C. for the past 25 years.
During that period, there have been three strikes, including the 2011-12 dispute. There have also been four occasions, including the introduction of Bill 22 last spring, of legislative intervention in such labour disputes.