Bargaining deal 'very positive' step

JASON HEWLETT / Kamloops Daily News
January 27, 2013 01:00 AM

As a new member of the B.C. Public School Employers' Association board, Kamloops-Thompson school district trustee Gerald Watson says he's optimistic about a negotiation framework recently ratified between his organization and the B.C. Teachers' Federation.

Calling it a positive step in the right direction, the B.C. Teachers' Federation and its employer have agreed on a new bargaining framework for the next round of contract talks.

As far as Kamloops-Thompson Teachers' Association president Jason Karpuk is concerned, the agreement renders the province's proposed 10-year deal with teachers a moot point.

"It's far better to have something that is agreed to by the parties involved than to have something imposed, because it works for nobody," Karpuk said.

Both sides negotiated the proposed agreement in December.

And on Saturday, a group of teachers representing the B.C. Teachers Federation and members of the B.C. Public School Employers' Association ratified the framework after the employers' association's annual general meeting.

Kamloops-Thompson school trustee Gerald Watson was elected to the employers' association board of directors on Saturday.

Having both sides agree on a framework bodes well for bargaining, he said.

"It's an indication that the two sides want to avoid the long, drawn out process that we had last time," he said.

The proposal calls for a timeline to facilitate negotiations with the employers' association. Teachers also want a facilitator appointed from the beginning of the process to help both sides communicate and prevent the acrimony that has historically stalled negotiations.

The agreement also stipulates that issues such as posting vacant teaching jobs, filling vacancies and transferring and laying off teachers will be discussed by local school districts, not at the provincial bargaining table.

To have the teachers' union and employers' association agree on the proposal is significant, said BCTF president Susan Lambert.

"It's a very positive and production move forward for sure," she said.

But the process has just begun, said Lambert. Collective bargaining is set to begin Feb. 4 and how smoothly that goes depends on the political will of the province.

She said wages and benefits are among the top issues teachers will bring to the bargaining table.

The current one-year teachers' contract expires in June and was reached after an entire school year of job action that further marred the union's relationship with the Liberal government.

As for B.C. Premier Christy Clark's proposal last week for 10-year teacher contracts in exchange for $100 million in new education funding, Lambert called the timing of that announcement a "distraction."

"What is perplexing about this is that there are four government representatives on the board of the (employer) so they know what we're doing with the employer and yet there is this proposal that seems to me to be intentionally disruptive," she said.


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