Teachers bitter contract dispute may end

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation signed an agreement-in-committee with the government’s bargaining agent

The contract dispute between B.C. teachers and the provincial government may come to an end tonight after both parties reached a tentative agreement earlier this week.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation signed an agreement-in-committee with the government’s bargaining agent, the BC Public School Employers’ Association late Tuesday night after more than a year of contract negotiations. Teachers across the province cast ballots Wednesday through to today and results of the ratification vote are expected to be announced this evening – the last day of the school year. Full details of the tentative deal have not been disclosed but 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.”

The agreement is good until June 30, 2013. Abbott praised the government’s appointed mediator for bringing the two sides together.

“Under Dr. Charles Jago’s guidance, the parties worked extremely hard and made progress on many important issues,” Abbott said in a prepared statement. “We are pleased that mediation has resulted in a tentative Memorandum of Settlement between the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation.”

But while Abbott was celebrating, the reaction from the teachers’ camp was more subdued. Susan Lambert, head of the BCTF, left the impression her union was forced into the deal.

“After a long and difficult round of negotiations, we were compelled into this process under threat of huge fines and further punitive legislation,” Lambert said in a statement. “We’ve concluded this agreement in order to prevent government from imposing a contract that would further erode teachers’ hard-won rights and do more harm to students’ learning conditions.”