Back to school is just around the corner, and while this can be a stressful time of year for both students and their parents, we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the school year will begin without a labour disruption.
On June 30, the five-year collective agreement with teachers came to an end.
While this does leave the door open for job action at a later date, teachers and the province are now meeting behind closed doors for eight days of mediated talks that began last Thursday.
BC Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring went on record to say that teachers would not consider job action before school begins.
Mooring says the goal is to get a deal before the end of August.
The sticking point remains class size and composition, following a 2016 court decision that gave the BCTF the right to negotiate these aspects as a part of their contract.
As a result, smaller classrooms are leading to a higher demand for teachers across the province, and this is especially true in our neck of the woods.
The BCTF argues the teacher shortage is also due in large part to B.C. having the second-lowest starting wage in the country.
The challenge, according to NDP Finance Minister Carole James, is to work within the 2-2-2 framework that has been applied other public sector unions, like nurses, doctors and government employees, who have already signed their agreements.
This means wage increases are limited to two percent annually over the course of the next three years.
Whether or not this results in a contract settlement remains to be seen, but we do know the BCTF has already launched a negative ad campaign aimed directly at the provincial government.
If this week’s talks do not result in a deal, Mooring warns that the next step “would be to have some difficult conversations with our members.”
This is a clear shot across the bow that could result in a potential teachers’ strike at some point in the school year.