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Update on BC teachers’ strike: historic deal a possibility

It has been a long road, but the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government have just reached a tentative six-year deal. The union has encouraged its members to accept it.

If accepted, the agreement would be the first in history for the province and lead to five years of peace between the parties. The teachers will be voting on whether to accept the package on September 18, 2014.

This potential deal follows several marathon negotiation sessions with a mediator in an attempt to bring an end to a very long and bitter dispute. Teachers and students have missed the first two weeks of school this year, and it is unclear how long it will take for schools to reopen if the deal is ratified. Moreover, the details of the agreement cannot yet be released.

Some hope that classrooms could reopen by Monday. Others hope that the damaged morale among teachers can be rehabilitated.

Although the parties are not yet allowed to disclose details of the agreement, Jim Iker, head of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, stated:

Thanks to the courageous stand teachers took on the picket lines and the strong support of parents and other unions, B.C. teachers were able to get new money invested in schools and reach a mutually agreed-to process to deal with any future court decision on class size, class composition, and staffing levels.”

This comes following full-scale job action two weeks before the summer break last year, and a full strike in the last two weeks of the school year. When it came time to negotiate in August regarding the new school year, the mediator said that the two sides were just too far apart and the schools had to remain closed at the beginning of the 2014 school year.

Then, the government rejected a call to binding arbitration. The teachers tried to end the teachers’ strike, but the government refused to participate. According to the government, this attempt to participate in the arbitration amounted to “another empty effort” to give parents and teachers “false hope.” However, the union insisted arbitration would be a fair way of ending the strike and getting the children back in class. The union accused the government of trying to undo the court findings that aimed to protect the collective bargaining process (if you recall, the government lost some major court cases after it attempted to dismantle the collective agreement and the collective bargaining process with the teachers).

But here we are, finally in a position to say that 40,000 teachers and half a million students may be coming back to class in the near future. We will keep you posted if the deal is ratified.

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Christina Catenacci

Christina Catenacci, BA, LLB, LLM, was called to the Ontario Bar in 2002 and has since been a member of the Ontario Bar Association. Christina worked as an editor with First Reference between February 2005 and August 2015, working on publications including The Human Resources Advisor (Ontario, Western and Atlantic editions), HRinfodesk discussing topics in Labour and Employment Law. Christina has decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Western Ontario beginning in the fall of 2015. Read more
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