Frequently Asked Questions: Updated
Answering Your Questions: Updated
1. The BCTF voted overwhelmingly in favour of arbitration. What is binding arbitration, and why not agree to it?
The results of this vote were widely expected and understandable. We know BC teachers want schools re-opened. That’s a goal we all share.
Arbitration takes the responsibility away from both parties to get to a negotiated settlement and gives it to a third party.
Arbitration is not something this government is going to consider because we recognize that as government, not only do we have a responsibility to the BCTF members to give them a fair settlement; we also have a responsibility to the taxpayers of this province.
Simply put, we do not believe a third party should make fiscal and policy decisions for the government. The best way to resolve this labour dispute remains at the negotiating table.
2. Why won’t you just legislate now?
We do not believe that it is in the best interest of students, parents or teachers to continue on the same dysfunctional treadmill that we have been on.
According to University of Victoria Professor Tom Fleming, there have been more 50 strikes and three lockouts since April, 1987 (Source: Canadian Press, 01/09/2014).
Legislation would only serve to shelve the same problem temporarily.
That is why we want to come to a negotiated agreement with the BCTF – an agreement that works for both sides. We have to stand firm on behalf of the long-term public interest, and on behalf of all British Columbians.
3. If you won’t legislate, and won’t agree to arbitration, how long is this going to last?
We want this labour dispute to end. Two weeks ago, Education Minister Peter Fassbender put forward a proposal that could have seen schools start on time. Fassbender asked the BCTF to have its teachers leave the picket lines, return to the classroom and continue negotiating at the bargaining table. The BCTF rejected that.
We’ve said legislation is not the way to go because then we end up back in another court cycle. We hope that the BCTF asks their members to give their executive the right to suspend their strike and get kids back in class so that we can actually focus on getting a negotiated settlement.
4. Is any contingency funding available to be used to settle with teachers?
Yes, some of the contingency is there to fund the stability mandate that we have not just for teachers, but for settlements across the public sector. The money is not there for two times that amount in the case of teachers, and the cascading effect that could follow for future negotiations, or negotiations that have already taken place.
5. What has the government offered to teachers?
The most recent offer to the BCTF was a 7% wage increase over a six-year term to provide stability for the education system and a guarantee of at least $375 million over five years to address complex classroom needs like hiring more teachers and education assistants.
We’ve also said that if we exceed our fiscal targets and GDP estimates (i.e. growing the economy faster than predicted), teachers, like all other unionized workers who have signed contracts, can earn up to another 0.5% wage increase over and above their contract. It’s our way of sharing the benefits of a growing economy with our public sector employees.
6. How much do teachers currently earn?
The average starting compensation (salary & benefits) for a newly hired teacher in British Columbia is over $60,000 (roughly $49,000 in salary). An experienced teacher is compensated up to $99,000 (roughly $80,000 in salary).
7. Why didn’t you bargain all summer?
We were prepared to bargain all summer, in fact, we started bargaining in earlier this year. But it takes two to tango.
The BCTF has steadfastly refused to bring their demands into the affordability zone. They are still asking for twice as much as other public sector workers have settled for, including a demand for a $5,000 signing bonus.
When veteran mediator Vince Ready met with both sides this past weekend, he concluded that wages were one of the big stumbling blocks.
8. Why are you appealing the court case? Why not just negotiate class composition now?
Despite what you may have heard, we want to deal with class composition now. It’s an important issue, which is why we tabled a proposal to provide more resources in the classroom. Read more about that proposal, “E80”, below.
We are appealing the court case because government has a responsibility to balance the interests of BCTF members against what is in the best interest of students and families. Simply put, we do not believe that the BCTF should make fiscal and policy decisions for the government.
The BCTF wants to return to a factory model where students are managed through rigid ratios and arbitrary formulas. No other province manages their classrooms this way. And for good reason: it is inefficient, ineffective, and highly discriminatory against students with special needs. It also takes away the ability of boards of education and principals to make appropriate decisions to match resources to meet the needs of students.
9. What is E80?
E80 is our proposal to bargain the issues of class size and composition now as Justice Griffin suggested the two parties do.
We believe class composition is the most important issue. We want to do everything we can to ensure students have the support they need: resources, educators and education assistants. So we’ve set aside $375 million over five years for this purpose.
The BCTF says they want to bargain class size and composition but when we try to do exactly that, BCTF refuses. Unfortunately, from their perspective, this is about which union benefits from the additional resources, the BCTF or CUPE (CUPE represents educational assistants). It should be about nothing other than what’s best for students.
10. What about class sizes?
The BC government publishes a fact sheet of information on class sizes in British Columbia. It says:
Compared to other high-performing jurisdictions, British Columbia does not have large classes. This year’s (2013-14) average class sizes are near historical lows of:
19.3 students for kindergarten.
21.5 for grades 1 to 3.
25.7 for grades 4 to 7.
23.0 for grades 8 to 12.
The BCTF wants to go back to rigid ratios and formulas. No other province in Canada manages its classrooms this way because it is inefficient, ineffective, and highly discriminatory against students with special needs.
11. What are the sticking points with the BCTF counter offer?
Veteran mediator Vince Ready was brought in recently to explore the possibility of mediation and he concluded that wages remain one of the big stumbling blocks.
The BCTF’s compensation demands remain double what 150,000 other B.C. public-sector workers have recently settled for, including a demand for a special $5,000 signing bonus that no one else received.
12. Where is the money coming from for the $40 a day program?
Parents with students 12 years old or under attending B.C. public schools may be eligible to receive a payment of $40 per day, per child, to help ease the impact if public schools are closed in September due to the labour disruption.
These funds come from the amount of money that is not spent by government to run the school system while the BCTF are on strike. Learn more at http://www.bcparentinfo.ca