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Teachers reluctantly accept new contract

B.C. teachers have voted to accept a new contract but they’re not happy about it.

Members of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) ratified an agreement-in-committee reached June 26 with their employer, the BC Public School Employers’ Association.

A total of 75 per cent of teachers voted to accept the deal in a vote conducted province-wide June 27-29.

Just 52 per cent of B.C.’s 21,044 teachers cast a ballot.

Elaine Thompson, president of the association representing Campbell River teachers, said teachers were forced into signing the agreement because they felt it was the best deal they could get from the provincial government.

“Not that teachers are happy with what’s in it but it was better than the alternative which probably would have stripped our contract even more,” Thompson said.

“We were compelled to accept the deal under the threat of fines - it’s a bullying tactic.”

Minister of Education George Abbott said the agreement “sets out improved language to manage leave positions, and is consistent with the government’s net zero mandate” it is also absent of concessions (contract stripping) which the government decided to take off the table, and includes improvements in most teachers’ benefits.

However, the agreement does not address two key issues for teachers.

“I doubt you could find a single teacher in B.C. who is happy with this agreement because it does absolutely nothing to improve the situation in classrooms for students or teachers,” said Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation in a prepared statement.

“It doesn’t address class size and composition nor does it provide a fair and reasonable salary increase for our members, who have fallen far behind teachers in other parts of Canada.”

Thompson agrees.

“There’s nothing for classrooms in the deal, there’s absolutely nothing to help kids,” Thompson said.

“No extra funding for special needs kids.

“Nobody’s really happy, it’s just a relief we didn’t go backwards,” said Thompson who is happy to put everything behind her for now.

“We’re just exhausted. I can’t say how relieved I am to be going into the summer and knowing there’s not going to be negotiations.”

The contract is good until June 30, 2013 and teachers will enter into contract talks again with the province four months prior.

Teachers’ rights to bargain for class size and composition are expected to be re-instated at that time.

In the meantime, the teachers’ union is seeking redress in the courts for past constitutional violations and to challenge Bill 22 which government introduced in mid-March to put an end to a three-day teachers strike.

Job action also included teachers refusing to write report cards and supervising students outside of the classroom. Most recently, teachers also chose to  refrain from extracurricular activities such as sports teams, after school clubs, graduation ceremonies and field trips.

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