Kamloops This Week is querying the candidates on your behalf. Each Wednesday between now and Oct. 20’s civic election, we will publish their answers to specific questions.
Nearly all of the 33 people seeking election in mayoral, council and school trustee races are taking part. Answers from school trustee candidates are below.
This week's question:
The contract between the provincial government and the BCTF expires next year. Do you support a return to district-by-district bargaining as existed prior to the mid-1990s or do you favour the current provincewide system?
The changing needs of students and teachers will not be addressed properly unless we can do so locally. Fears that provincial bargaining would undermine local efforts to address the problems and conditions in our schools were well-founded. In B.C., teachers negotiate under a two-tiered bargaining model that is set out in legislation in place since the mid-1990s. Under this legislation, larger cost items must be negotiated provincially between the BCTF and the BC Public School Employers' Association, which negotiates on behalf of all school districts in the province. The provincial government also has direct involvement at the provincial table. The items negotiated provincially include salary, benefits, paid leaves, workload issues such as class size and composition and specialist teacher ratios. All other matters are negotiated locally between individual BCTF locals and their respective school districts. I have full confidence and support the BCFT and its negotiation team.
I support the current provincewide system. The provincial bargaining model in place creates a level playing field throughout the province when it comes to major contractual issues, while at the same time allowing districts to bargain locally on issues that are specific to just them.
The current bargaining model is the one that makes the most sense. The province controls the purse strings in terms of how it funds school districts and so the province should also negotiate its major cost component. There is more equality of bargaining power when the parties negotiate core wage issues in this fashion.
The provincewide system of bargaining allows for funding equity from district to district according to the formula that is applied. If bargaining returns to a system of district to district, this would not result in increased funding unless we are also allowed to have local taxation. I would support the board in lobbying for increased funding for our district and should bargaining be returned to the district level, I would be in favour of lobbying the government to allow school districts to tax locally.
The previous district-by-district bargaining was inefficient and cost the taxpayers more money. Negotiated wages and classroom composition varied from district to district, as did benefits. It made it much more difficult for our school district to be competitive and attract and retain teachers. Currently there is a well thought-out balance of provincial and local bargaining utilizing the provincewide system. The province bargains the large monetary items like salary and health and dental benefits. Each district bargains contract language, of which they have intimate knowledge based upon unique local circumstances.
School District 73 would do extremely well with district-by-district bargaining. SD73 is backed by strong associations and we're fortunate enough to have advocates in the community that are very involved. The district as a whole is very desirable and, through district-by-district bargaining, a conclusion could be reached that is favourable for all stakeholders. The downside to this is that I assume the process would be very expensive for the province and the lesser districts could potentially lose out.
I agree with the current provincewide system of bargaining for issues of provincial concern, with local issues being negotiated in local agreements.
The current bargaining system consists of salary and other monetary items being bargained provincially and non-monetary items being bargained locally. This is a sensible balance as it helps prevent inequities in teacher salaries (i.e. teachers in one district being paid more or less than in another, as happened often under the past system) and is under the control of the entity that sets the provincial budget — the province. It allows local flexibility in items such as scheduling of professional development days, start and end times of school and other items that are of importance locally, but not necessarily at a provincial level.
I believe it would be ill-advised to discuss moving away from the BCPSEA bargaining with BCTF at this time, particularly with a request from the BCTF to start negotiations talks with the BC Public School Employers’ Association no later than December 2018. Instead, I would like to support discussions with the provincial government about the possibility of funds being made available so local parties can address some of the cost items in the upcoming negotiations. We have an opportunity to work with the provincial government on this contract to obtain fair and reasonable outcomes around items like salaries, benefits, time worked, paid leave and class size restrictions. My hope is that with this round of bargaining, we can come to an agreement without any disruptions to the students’ learning because I don’t think anyone wants that.