Tentative deal reached!

A tentative deal in the teacher strike was reached as of 3:50 a.m. this morning!

Details will be coming out as time goes by, but a vote by teachers to ratify is required first. There is online chatter that this is tentatively expected for Thursday, with schools then tentatively opening Monday – but wait for details to come out before making definite plans.

Teachers are still on strike until the vote is taken and the deal signed, so expect picketing to continue until then.

BC School Trustees Advocacy Update

As we enter the second week of the school year with classrooms still closed, BCSTA is extremely concerned about the impact the continuing strike is having on students, staff, parents and BC’s public education system overall.

We appeal to both sides to move beyond their current positions to make meaningful and real concessions with the assistance of mediator Vince Ready. If the parties will not make the necessary moves to achieve a negotiated settlement BCSTA strongly encourages a cooling off period that would include a public third party report and non-binding recommendations.

The most recent development has been a call by the BCTF for binding arbitration. BCPSEA Chief Negotiator Peter Cameron has recommended that government not agree to the proposal due to the preconditions set by the BCTF. The arbitration proposal has resulted in a significant amount of media and comment. While we respect that individual Boards will decide their own local position on binding arbitration BCSTA continues to advocate the following positions:

  • An agreement that is freely negotiated that can be supported by both parties going forward. While legislation or a binding settlement imposed by a third party would get students back into classrooms neither of these approaches adequately address the long-term issues facing the education system.
  • Boards of Education have repeatedly expressed the need for flexibility on class size and composition. Rigid numbers set in a contract make it very difficult to accommodate individual learning needs at the school level.
  • The Learning Improvement Fund (LIF) provides a flexible way to provide additional learning supports in classrooms where needed. BCSTA has called on the government to increase the LIF funding beyond the $75 million already in the 2014-2015 budget. The LIF must be increased to address class size and composition issues.
  • BCSTA believes that while teachers deserve an increase in compensation it needs to be comparable to those accepted by other BC public sector unions and realistic given the provincial government’s existing economic mandate.
  • BCSTA urgently and continuously calls for increased funding for BC’s public education system.
  • When a settlement is reached it must be fully funded by government.

While we may not all agree on the specific aspects of each party’s current position, trustees, teachers, administrators and parents agree that we need students back in the classroom now.

Wednesday updates

Globe and Mail has launched a special section for BC Education:


“…Hours later, Peter Fassbender declined for a second time in three days to hand over decision-making to an independent arbitrator and accused the federation of calculating that the government wouldn’t budge.

“I believe that the BCTF executive knew when they called for (arbitration) that this government would not agree,” he told reporters in Victoria, adding he felt as though he was in the film Groundhog Day, where the same day repeats over and over.

…Fassbender said the government is not considering any option other than a negotiated settlement and panned the arbitration plan by explaining a past attempt at that route ended up compelling the government to raise taxes. He repeated that the government will not legislate a settlement.

– See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/b-c-teachers-arbitration-offer-rejected-again-by-fassbender-1.1347014#sthash.cdSfpeNC.dpuf

BCTF’s arbitration framework, ArbitrationFrameworkforSettlement, submitted September 7th

BCPSEA’s September 6th response to the verbal offer: http://www.bcpsea.bc.ca/documents/teacher%20bargaining/Letters/00-Letter%20from%20Peter%20Cameron%20to%20Minister%20of%20Education%20Sept%206%202014.pdf


“It’s been clear for months that the sides in the school strike are incapable of getting a deal done.

A third party of some sort is desperately needed to step in. A facilitator was on hand for months and couldn’t prompt any headway. Mediator Vince Ready spent a weekend on the impasse and walked away, electing to wait for the winds to change.

The next option is an arbitrator, but that requires mutual agreement from both sides, and only the B.C. Teachers’ Federation favours it at this point.

So the union executive’s decision to put the arbitration idea to the membership isn’t as dramatic as it sounds.

Teachers will vote Wednesday and soon after, the union will likely release results showing a huge majority of their membership support the idea of accepting arbitration.

But so what? It’s the other side that has to support the idea for it to work. And Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Monday: “It’s not in the cards, period.”

Wednesday’s vote is designed to be a retroactive ratification of a move that has already failed. The theoretical idea will likely be approved, but it’s simply not going to happen. If teachers reject it, the situation will get even worse. That would show the membership doesn’t want to concede any say on the sky-high wage package and could easily be taken as a non-confidence vote in the executive, which would lead to fresh chaos.

What they’re voting on is a carefully designed offer to hand off the wage and benefits argument to a third party. But the government side said there are time bombs buried in the concept that make it unworkable.

(As a measure of the hopelessness of this situation, there’s an entire side-argument about basic negotiating courtesies — such as writing down proposals — that are dropping off the table as fast as the lost days are piling up.)


Interesting data from BC Government on public sector bargaining: http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/psec/publicsector/index.htm

“The people working in B.C.’s public sector provide a wide-range of services, including administrative, environmental, scientific, technical, health and social services, to name only a few.”

Are special needs really ‘the problem’? Why class composition measures won’t work and where we need to look instead
Dawn Steele, Vancouver Parents for Successful Inclusion April 2011



“When Premier Christy Clark experienced a five-point drop in the public approval rating reported by the Angus Reid polling firm Monday, the laugh lines were not long in coming.

“The last time Clark was in this much trouble in the polls, she won the election,” was my favourite, because it hearkened back to the spring of 2013 when pollsters and pundits (me included) all had the premier and her B.C. Liberals ticketed for defeat.

Joking aside, the poll provided a reality check for anyone who might be hoping that a big shift in public opinion would persuade the Liberals to abandon their hard-line position in the current dispute with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. …”

A Framework for Long Term Stability in Education, from the provincial government, January 2013.

Sunday Updates

Speech from our local “union boss”, Tina Cousins, from the Prince George Teachers Association, from rally on September 4th:  Rally- BCFED


“On Saturday Education Minister Peter Fassbender rejected the B.C. Teacher Federation’s proposal to enter into binding arbitration in the ongoing strike, and the government’s lead negotiator said there is no optimism a settlement is in sight.”






“…While provinces keep their numbers differently, making comparisons difficult, a look at Alberta and Ontario – provinces that also have dicey relationships with their educators – sheds some light on teachers’ compensation and working conditions elsewhere in Canada.

For example: While new teachers in B.C. make salaries that are comparable to their counterparts in other provinces, those with more experience or expertise lag behind. In Alberta and Ontario, top-ranked teachers can earn up to $20,000 more a year.

And while the BCTF and government argue about appropriate class sizes, Alberta favours loose provincial guidelines over legislated caps, resulting in class sizes ranging from a handful to nearly 50 students….”


The most recent court decision was issued this past January, and the province immediately announced an appeal. A hearing is set to begin Oct. 14.

The province says in its written arguments that it should be free to pass legislation on issues of public policy, such as how classes are structured.

“Government considers class-size limits, formulas and staffing ratios to be an inefficient means of allocating funding, unresponsive to actual school need, and restrictive in terms of the ability of school districts to offer a range of school programming,” the government says in a factum filed with the B.C. Court of Appeal.

“The issue with the deleted clauses, accordingly, is not simply how much money should be spent on K-12 education but how it is to be spent and who should make such decisions.”

From Citizen: “P.G. union boss crosses fingers for bargaining as teachers prepare for rally”

From Prince George Citizen – http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/

Prince George teachers are holding a rally for public support tonight. At 6 p.m. they are calling on taxpayers to join their calls for a negotiated settlement in the ongoing labour dispute between the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) acting as an arm’s-length agent for the B.C. government. The rally will feature supporters of the teachers like BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair, members of the North-Central Labour Council, United Steelworkers local president Frank Everitt, past NDP candidate Sherry Ogasawara acting as master of ceremonies and possibly BCTF president Jim Iker. “We hope on one hand to have him here, but on the other hand our bigger hope is that he is at the bargaining table. We do think that conversation is a realistic hope,” said Prince George and District Teachers’ Association president Tina Cousins. If Iker comes, he should bring a written proposal from which to bargain, the one thing the BCTF has seemed reluctant to do for a very long time, education minister Peter Fassbender told The Citizen on Wednesday. He said the provincial government is ready to bargain, but needs a concrete proposal with numbers. He said BCPSEA has offered the teachers a raise, the government has pledged $375 million to address class size and composition issues plus protocols for local input on how that is spent from district to district, but the conversation doesn’t even get to that point because “the BCTF has been intransigent in their position.” Cousins said one of the suggestions made by government was for teachers to go back to work while negotiations continued. “Realistically, this is a fight that we can’t lose,” Cousins said. “As much as teachers don’t want to be on a picket line – nobody likes a strike, nobody wins a strike – our kids will lose if we don’t prevail. And we did not see this going this far, but this is a government that has not been known for being truthful and fair in their dealings with the BCTF. There is no trust there at all. That’s kind of a bottom line keeping us, forcing us, to stay out on a picket line until they honour their part of this negotiation.” Fassbender said the suggestion of ending the strike during the negotiations also came with orders for BCPSEA to end any lockout action, and anytime negotiations hit a major snag the teachers were free to return to picket lines, but at least kids would be in the classrooms in the interim. “When you tear up previous contracts, lose court battles [now the subject of an appeal] and agree to lockout action, you damage the sense of trust on the other side of the table,” said Cousins.

“We are hoping for a big turnout because our community needs to speak,” said Cousins. “The teachers have been speaking. It is time for the community. So do come down, and urge your friends and neighbours to do the same. We need a community uprising and take up this quarrel as well.”

Fassbender said the public is being served by a government negotiating fairly with all public sector unions under transparent financial conditions of the overall provincial income. He said the BCTF is acting as if it is special compared to all the others that have negotiated mutually appreciated deals under the same wage and benefit parameters.

“The BCTF has not moved their position. The conversation is always: give us everything we want,” Fassbender said.

“We have an affordability zone that so many of those other unions had no problem understanding and working with us on. So to say the government isn’t willing to go there is categorically not true. But we need a proposal to come to the table to talk about.”

The rally tonight happens in front of Shirley Bond’s MLA office on Fifth Avenue and Brunswick Street.

Times Colonist Editorial from Geoff Johnson

Welcome back to British Columbia’s day of national disgrace. After a week or so of bumbling, scrambling and face-saving in high places, B.C.’s public schools are still shuttered and half a million children are barred from participation in what was once one of the world’s better systems of public education.

Both the government and the leaders of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation should hang their heads in shame.

A summer of opportunity was frittered away, one that should have at least seen the warring sides come to a level of understanding that could have sent 500,000 kids back to school today. Political considerations and a history of mutual cynicism disgracefully trumped the kids’ chance at being in class somewhere other than in an independent school.

In the absence of shame, as they say, all conduct is excusable.

The media pictures of the premier sipping wine in Saskatchewan, while B.C. parents and kids frantically looked for safe child-care alternatives for this week, said it all about the government’s priorities.

The BCTF, having backed itself into a corner by calling a premature strike in the last two weeks of June, has realized too late that the government had no intention of making a deal.

Too late, as well, to understand that this never was a normal negotiation — something that mediator Vince Ready recognized months ago and confirmed again this weekend.

The decades of rancorous and unproductive relationships between teachers’ union leaders and governments of three political parties — Social Credit, NDP and Liberal — has led public education in B.C. to a place outside the normal expectations of a progressive society.

Hovering over this educational dystopia has been a labour-relations structure designed for a different time and one found consistently unworkable in serving the needs of B.C.’s kids and their parents.

Too late to grasp that teachers are not hardhat factory or mill workers who, as a union, can bring an unjust employer to its knees by crippling a business.

Too late to realize that the government is not a private-enterprise employer with labour-relations decisions and conflicts circumscribed by the profit margin. Teachers teach children and government is elected to make sure that happens.

Too late to see that there was a serious responsibility on the part of both the BCTF and the government to make sure that the purpose of their relationship is focused on getting school operating.

That responsibility has been set aside and schools are closed because both sides have failed to fully appreciate their obligations that demand that, whatever it takes, schools open today and a year of learning begins.

But that has not happened and there is no point in retelling, once again, the disgraceful history that has led us to this point.

No point in revisiting illegal behaviour by a government that, for 12 years since it legislated its way out of the teacher contract, has accumulated what amounts to a court-imposed insurmountable debt.

No point in questioning the ill-conceived strategies of the BCTF, including the demand that the government pay up on that debt and pay up now.

No point in wondering why neither side has accepted their mutual responsibility to set aside their abysmal history and seek a solution that leaves neither side satisfied, but which supports the greater good.

There is no likelihood that the government will buy the kind of solution it did in on June 30, 2006, when, with the 2010 Olympics looming, the government avoided the potential embarrassment of school closures and picket lines contrasting with Olympic largesse by agreeing to a settlement that included a 16 per cent salary increase over a five-year term and a $4,000 signing bonus for each teacher.

That was then and this is now. The Olympics imperative does not exist and, with new priorities identified, the government will continue to allocate its assets as it sees fit. Public-sector employees, having campaigned unsuccessfully for a change in government during the last election, will continue to find themselves at the end of the generosity line.

The government and the BCTF have demonstrated that, for one of the very few times since the inception of Canadian universal public education, B.C. will now blunder onward and lead the way into a new world of labour relations where, without regard to the consequences for 500,000 kids and their parents, winning at any cost is what it is all about.

Welcome back.

Geoff Johnson is a retired superintendent of schools.

– See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/geoff-johnson-now-is-the-day-of-our-national-disgrace-1.1337335#sthash.KFg09C6O.dpuf

Wednesday’s updates

A collection of articles and reading.


“There are three things that have changed, gradually but inexorably, since the turn of the century: The first is that students with special needs and their parents are fully aware of their rights, and are comfortable advocating for themselves. The second is that society, in turn, has become more accepting of people with special needs, so that the language and practices used in education, including post-secondary education, which used to be unthinkable for students with special needs, have been transformed. The third change is that medical research and knowledge about some disabilities, like autism, as well as other unknown factors, have led to a remarkable surge in both diagnosis and incidence.”

Their tool for seeing how your child’s school looks like for class size & number of students with individual education plans:



“Today, I’d like to look at what’s called E.80 – that’s the proposal from the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) which was put forward to initiate bargaining on class size, class composition, and specialist educators.


Because to understand the current impasse we need to understand the background to the proposal and, more importantly, we need to understand what it is and what it is not.  Given the complexity of the issue, this may be a somewhat longer than usual post.”

From BCPSEA (if anyone has alternate BCTF costed proposals, please send them along and we’ll post them):
UPDATE Following Meetings With Vince Ready — Barriers to Concluding a Negotiated Collective Agreement: Costing the BCTF Proposals Currently on the Table
UPDATED-August 31-Backgrounder-Barriers to Concluding a Negotiated Collective Agreement – Cost of BCTF Proposals Currently on the Table

Class Size and Teacher Workload BCPSEA Response to BCTF Statements
No 2014-06 For the Record – Class Size and Teacher Workload – BCPSEA Response to BCTF Statements



“BCTF President Jim Iker is calling upon Premier Christy Clark to meet with him to help reach a fair settlement to the current strike/lockout before September 2.

Over the weekend in talks with Vince Ready, the BCTF trimmed its package by $125 million”


“There will be no public school classes today in British Columbia, nor quite likely for weeks, after veteran mediator Vince Ready walked out of negotiations, saying teachers and the provincial government were too far apart.

So it’s time for a reality check.

First, the sky will not fall. Everybody take a valium.

Students will not be scarred for life in learning that the peaceful resolution of strong differences among adults is inconvenient and expensive in a democracy. In fact, it’s a valuable life lesson.

Alternative ways of dispute resolution are now on display by Russian tanks and troops in eastern Ukraine, where the rule of force trumps the rule of law and respect for international borders.”



With Tuesday’s traditional return to school a no-go for students, parents are busy planning to cushion the blow.

“Parents are being super-resourceful,” Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit, founder of the Vancouver online parenting resource Yoyomamma.ca., said on Monday. “I’m seeing people taking alternating days off work, where the wife works from home Monday and the husband does the next day.

“But that’s only a short-term solution. Alternating working from home with your partner is great for a week or two, but I don’t think this is good for the long term.”

The teachers strike will likely continue well into September after hopes of mediation were crushed, classes were formally cancelled for Tuesday’s scheduled opening day, and each side blamed the other.

Some school districts warned parents to brace for a lengthy shutdown of schools.

“We suggest parents make alternative arrangements for the coming week and look to the very real possibility that a resolution may take much longer,” Jordan Tinney, Surrey’s superintendent of schools, said in a letter to parents. “The disruption is especially unsettling when there appears to be no end in sight.

“…I grew so tired of that constant, divisive narrative — that incessant wrangling and finger pointing that always used patients as pawns — that I left health care coverage for awhile for the more pleasant pastures of running a lifestyle magazine.

But in the interim these last six or seven years, unbeknownst to many, a dramatic shift has occurred in the BC health care narrative. In fact, a new collaborative culture between government and the medical profession has been emerging that is creating positive health care change. And moreover, patients are no longer the unwitting pawns in a battle for dominance, but the winners in a cooperative conversation that aims to put their needs first.”

“Rather than fighting over what is good for government or good for doctors, the committees found if they focused on what is best for patients they could find common ground. Asking the question, “how do patients benefit from this change?” has depoliticized the whole process.”
” BC has some of the best health care indicators in the country such as the best cancer survival rates, lowest maternal mortality rates and longest life spans. We have the lowest per capital spending on health care but have the best avoidable mortality rate for treatable causes of any province or territory in Canada, as well as the lowest hospitalization rate for conditions that are best handled outside of hospitals in primary care. These indicators show that while there is always room for improvement, our health system in BC is working relatively well compared to other provinces.”

Monday’s updates

Parents can apply for $40/day payment here for children 12 years of age and under, registered in a BC public school: http://bcparentinfo.ca/

Money will not be received until sometime after strike ends, will not be taxable, and can be spent in whatever way parent deems appropriate (daycare, tutoring, donated to PAC, donated to teachers, pizza, RESP contributions, etc).

While the form asks for the student’s personal education number, it is not required.

According to SD57 website:

“It is unlikely that schools in School District No. 57 will be open for the period September 2 – 5, 2014. Any changes will be updated to the website immediately. ”

Information from Prince George District Teacher Association on planned rally: RallyforPublicEducation

Two articles on historic relationship between government and teachers:



Article on Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 2007, on BC health services & support union’s challenge to the 2002 BC government “contact stripping”. This is the ruling  which lead to the BCTF’s win in BC courts in 2011:

“This past June, the Supreme Court of Canada did something that it rarely does: expressly overrule one of its judicial precedents, acknowledge that its prior analysis was wrong, and begin to rebuild its legal foundations anew. Such a volte-face by the court is even rarer for cases under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yet all of this happened in B.C. Health Services.

In its path-breaking decision, the Court ruled the British Columbia government had breached the Charter rights of healthcare and social service employees when it invalidated a range of substantial workplace protections won by their unions during previous rounds of collective bargaining. With the decision, the Court reversed 20 years of Charter jurisprudence on workplace associational rights and set the Constitution on a new course.

The judgement in B.C. Health Services came as an enormous surprise to most Charter watchers. In 1987, the Supreme Court had issued its famous “labour trilogy” decisions, where it stated, with arid and unimaginative reasoning, that legislative restrictions on collective bargaining and legal strikes did not offend the freedom of association guarantee — Section 2(d) — of the Charter. Other decisions followed in the 1990s, which only confirmed the Court’s lifeless approach to Section 2(d).”


Statements from BCTF & Govt re: current situation


Minister of Education Peter Fassbender issued the following statement today:

“Today veteran labour mediator Vince Ready determined that the parties are too far apart for mediation at this time.

“I’m very disappointed for students, parents and teachers. What should be a time of excitement and anticipation will instead be marked by frustration and uncertainty.

“I wish I could tell British Columbians when students will be back in school. But right now, I don’t see any quick or easy solutions.


After two days of work with Vince Ready, it has become clear that the government is not
prepared to find a fair settlement that will get BC’s students and teachers back in classrooms. The BCTF team tried to kick start meaningful talks by dropping some proposals entirely and reducing others substantially. In total, our moves today reduced our package by $125 Million.  Unfortunately, the government did not indicate they were willing to make any meaningful  moves in return.

Vince Ready has left talks


“Vince Ready has left talks between the B.C. teachers’ union and the provincial government in Richmond, B.C., saying the sides are too far apart to come to a resolution anytime soon.

“I don’t see a resolution here before the start of school given the positions of the parties. They are a long, long ways apart,” the veteran mediator said.

He has been working as a facilitator since Thursday, when talks resumed after a summer of stalled negotiations.

Veteran mediator Vince Ready said Friday night that the parties in the teachers’ dispute were far from a resolution. On Saturday he walked, saying there was no need for him as the two sides were too far apart. (CBC)

Ready said he was trying to “establish some kind of a meaningful framework for mediation.”

But, the two sides’ positions on wages, benefits and class composition remained “a long ways apart,” he told reporters as he left a building that had housed the talks on Saturday just after 5:30 p.m. PT.

There had not been enough movement between teachers and their employer for him to justify staying involved, he said, adding he couldn’t imagine anything would develop over the weekend that would allow classes to start as scheduled on Tuesday.

Ready said the next steps are up to the negotiators working for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and for the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.”


Raw interview with Vince Ready: http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/BC/ID/2502416508/