Delta teachers to vote
By Tom Fletcher and Kristine Salzmann
Delta Teachers' Association president Paul Steer is recommending Delta teachers vote in favour of the tentative agreement reached between the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the BC Public School Employers' Association late Tuesday (June 26).
Teachers across B.C. vote this week on the proposed settlement, the term of which runs until Saturday (June 30).
"My opinion of it acknowledges the fact that it falls within the net zero mandate of the government," Steer said. "It also represents a pretty rare agreement between the parties – the BCPSEA and BCTF – and it pre-empts the need for government to superimpose a contract on teachers through legislation."
Reached Wednesday morning, Steer said the DTA would be making every effort to communicate the deal with Delta teachers.
"We'll be setting up to have a vote and possibly an extraordinary general meeting of the membership to fully inform them and provide them with the opportunity of voting yes or no."
The agreement puts off a bitter dispute over government changes to hiring, layoff and performance evaluation of teachers. Education Minister George Abbott said the deal includes a letter of understanding to continue talks on those issues.
BCTF president Susan Lambert said the agreement includes some improvements to teacher benefits and leave provisions. But Wednesday Lambert announced the union is making the latest of many trips to court to argue that imposing a two-year wage freeze violates their constitutional right to collective bargaining. The BCTF is the last major public sector union in the province to accept the wage limits.
"We have been able to achieve some modest improvements but, above all, we succeeded in getting government to take its concession demands off the table," Lambert said.
Abbott rejected the union's claim that the employer was trying to cut back professional development provisions. The ministry wants to standardize provisions that were negotiated separately with the 60 districts before province-wide bargaining was imposed, he said.
BCPSEA chair Melanie Joy said the tentative agreement standardizes provincial language for the number of leaves and establishes a process for determining local and provincial issues.
Acceptance of the agreement will allow schools to resume classes next fall with teachers resuming extra-curricular activities and meetings with school administration. The work-to-rule campaign extended throughout the school year now ending for most students, and culminated in a three-day strike in March.
Steer said Delta teachers are receiving the news of the settlement with mixed feelings.
"I've heard from the teachers who are relieved that the summer is going to arrive without the dark cloud of future action on the horizon, but they are still deeply, deeply concerned about the long term welfare of the students and the system overall," he said.