B.C. teachers are beefing up their negotiation skills in Kamloops this week in anticipation of protracted and contentious contract bargaining.
Several workshops offered during the B.C. Teachers Federation annual summer conference being held this week at Thompson Rivers University allow teachers to learn how to improve their talking points and delivery.
Courses like “Get on that soapbox and rock it” are giving teachers “tips and tricks” for “delivering a command performance at a school board meeting, community forum or school visit.”
Another course provides ways for advocates involved in bargaining to “maximize outcomes for members when involved in negotiations.”
The workshop informs teachers about such things as spotting and circumventing “games” during negotiations.
The skills could come in handy as teachers and their union are looking at a long bout of bargaining this school year.
A sticking point that currently appears insurmountable is the province’s push for a 10-year deal.
The B.C. government has been unmoving in its resolve even though teachers loudly proclaimed their disdain for the idea of such a long-term contract in a vote last June.
“People hesitate at a three-year deal (for a cellphone plan),” said Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association president Jason Karpuk.
“We did sign a five-year deal from 2006 to 2011, so we have done long-term deals in the past. But to go 10 years on an education system and say everything’s locked in under that, I think is pie in the sky and I don’t think it’s realistic.”
Nonetheless, BCTF’s new president Jim Iker is optimistic a deal can be reached.
“The sooner that they stop talking about a 10-year deal, the better,” he said. “Government says they want to deal with the BCTF and we want to deal with government so let’s make it happen.”
However negotiations won’t get rolling until after October since the two sides are already involved in a court battle.
At issue is a Supreme Court ruling against the province’s removal from the collective agreement the union’s input over class size and class composition limits in 2011.
“Government was given a year to deal with it,” said Iker, “and here we are almost two years later and it still hasn’t been dealt with, so we’re back in court to deal with that issue and see what kind of remedy for what they did can happen.”