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School board opposes 10-year contract

School District 72’s board of education is speaking out against the provincial government’s push for a decade long contract with B.C. teachers.

The BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) and its employer, the BC Public School Employers’ Association were working towards a new two- to three-year deal up until the May provincial election.

But Premier Christy Clark made a promise during her election campaign that the province would implement a 10-year contract with teachers to achieve labour peace in classrooms.

However, teachers say that’s too long to be locked in to a contract.

At the board of education meeting June 25, School District 72 trustees agreed and voted to send a letter, written by board chair Michele Babchuk to Education Minister Peter Fassbender, opposing the changes.

“Although we understand the inefficiencies of continually negotiating two-year contracts, we also have some significant concerns around issues arising from contracts that are a decade in length, especially if there is a possibility of those contract being imposed instead of working through an agreed upon collective bargaining process,” Babchuk wrote on behalf of the board. “In School District 72, we place great value on the relationship we have built with our educational partners and are highly concerned about the continued government/labour unrest in this sector.”

The most recent tussle between the two sides occurred last school year after the teachers’ contract had expired. Teachers started out the 2011/2012 school year with minimal job action – refraining from writing formal report cards and supervising students on the playground at lunch and recess. From there, the job action escalated to a three-day strike in early March during which time teachers worked “stick-it” lines in front of local schools, passing out informational pamphlets and marching downtown in a show of solidarity.

The strike was halted by the province’s Bill 22 which legislated teachers back to work. In late June, 2012 teachers reluctantly accepted a new contract which expired last weekend, on June 30.

Just 52 per cent of B.C.’s 21,044 teachers cast a ballot in the vote to ratify the agreement which then-Education Minister George Abbott said had no concessions (contract stripping) and included improvements to most teachers’ benefits.

Teachers, on the the other hand, weren’t satisfied with the contract because it didn’t address class size and composition or provide what they deemed a reasonable salary increase for B.C. teachers.

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