Ongoing labour talks won’t delay start of school year

The kids may be disappointed, but schools are expected to be open across School District 73 despite ongoing labour negotiations between teachers and the province.

“The information we get is both sides want a deal, both sides are working hard,” said SD73 assistant superintendent Rob Schoen.

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The school district and the Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association (KTTA) have been awaiting the outcome of negotiations between the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) and BC Teachers Federation (BCTF), which wrap eight days of talks on Friday.

Superintendent Alison Sidow said talks at the local level have been completed and they are waiting for bargaining to wrap at the provincial level before moving forward with decisions made through local talks.

As of KTW’s press deadline on Thursday, no new contract for teachers is in place.

But that doesn’t mean classes won’t resume Tuesday, even if a deal isn’t struck over the long weekend.

According to the BCTF, parents should expect school to resume as normal as talks are ongoing and no strike vote is being contemplated by the union at this point.

If a strike did occur, job action could end up being phased in as it was five years ago when teachers implemented rotating strikes towards the end the 2013-2014 school year before a full-scale walk out in June.

The province and teachers’ union could also continue negotiating into the upcoming school year.

Teachers have been without a new contract since the end of June.

B.C.’s Minister of Education, Rob Fleming, told reporters Wednesday during a press conference that he was a little surprised contract talks with teachers have taken this long, but remains hopeful the two parties can reach a deal.

“I think it’s important to reiterate what the teachers have committed to parents and families in BC, that the school year will start as normal. I do take some comfort in the fact that our government has successfully now concluded agreements with 70 per cent of civil servants right across B.C.,” Fleming said.

Fleming also said he sees no reason a deal can’t be reached, having concluded agreements with nurses and other public sector unions.

Wages, and class size and composition language, are the main issues.

The BCTF has accused the government of wanting to increase class sizes, reduce support levels for students with special needs and make cuts to the number of specialist teachers, that were restored when the BCTF won a 2016 legal battle over class size and composition language.

The union says it’s focused on maintaining and improving upon that restored contract language.

Teachers are also seeking a salary increase above the government’s Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate, which calls for a three-year term with wage increases of two per cent each year for public-sector contracts, which the BCTF hopes to achieve through certain exemptions within the mandate.

The BCTF contends the wage increase is needed to recruit and retain teachers in B.C., which are among the lowest paid in the country.

© Kamloops This Week

 


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