B.C.’s striking teachers will vote this week on a tentative settlement with the provincial government that Premier Christy Clark says is a “historic” achievement.
Mediator Vince Ready announced the breakthrough early Tuesday morning, after five days of talks at a Richmond hotel. The B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the province’s negotiators agreed to withhold details until a final document is presented to present to BCTF members and school trustees.
With a ratification vote of 40,000 union members expected to be held Thursday, the province’s 60 school districts are attempting to return to regular classes next week after five weeks of full-scale strike action that began last June.
Clark said if the vote passes, schools will be up and running again as early as Monday. She thanked parents for their patience as the strike dragged into the fall, saying a negotiated settlement was the only way to improve a relationship that has been dysfunctional for 30 years.
“We’ll have five years to talk about the things that really matter, and that’s children in classrooms,” Clark said in Vancouver Tuesday.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said a plan is being developed to make up missed instructional days, which could involve rescheduling Christmas holidays, spring break or adding days to the end of the school year. Every student’s education will be “kept whole,” particularly senior high school students looking ahead to post-secondary studies, he said.
The agreement includes money to settle thousands of union grievances accumulated since the province removed class size and teacher staffing levels from the teacher contract in 2002.
Clark said the deal includes increased funds to hire more teachers to address class size and special needs support. It is for six years, retroactive to the expiry of the earlier agreement last spring, with raises averaging just over one per cent per year.
The government’s appeal of a court decision ordering the return of 2002 class size provisions will will continue, Clark said.
VIDEO: Premier Clark, Peter Fassbender on “historic” deal with teachers