Everyone wants deal done
For five months, B.C. public schools have been coping with the teachers’ labour dispute.
While the effects may have been muted, with classrooms functioning as normal and many sports and extra curricular events are still taking place, the job action may be taking its toll because teachers aren’t doing administrative duties.
That’s why some groups may be looking to the province to take action when the legislature resumes next week.
School District 43 board chair Melissa Hyndes, a Port Moody trustee, said she fears burnout, stress and frustration among administrators, teachers, students and parents unless the current labour dispute is resolved soon and she’s looking for a signal from the province that something will be done to reach an agreement with teachers.
“Although a legislated agreement is not the best type of agreement, people are frustrated and nobody’s moving forward and, in my opinion, I think most boards of education would like the government to step in,” Hyndes said.
She said schools and school boards are caught in the middle while the BC Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government remain far apart. The teachers have asked for a 15% wage increase over three years while the BC Public Schools Employers Association has to stick to the government’s net zero mandate.
“I think it should be legislated and should be legislated back soon,” Hyndes said. “There is just no way [for an agreement to be reached]. We have a [net] zero mandate and they still come back with a 15% over three years.”
Coquitlam Teachers’ Association, meanwhile, is also waiting to see what the future will hold when the legislature resumes next week, followed by a budget a week later. CTA president Teresa Grandinetti said morale is high among teachers but there is some pessimism, too, about what the government will do.
“Is the government planning something or not? That’s the big question on peoples’ minds,” she said.
She’s concerned that any legislated agreement the government will put forward will take away hard-won benefits under the net zero mandate, and Grandinetti said teachers shouldn’t have to lose something to get an agreement.
“They never add, they always legislate and take away. That, in my mind, is very troubling,” she said, adding that despite what the government says, other groups have seen contract improvements under the net zero mandate.
While she doesn’t want a legislated agreement, she wants some acknowledgement of the value of the teaching profession and some realistic bargaining. “There’s a huge amount of wait and see,” Grandinetti said.
Parents are also keeping an eye on teacher contract negotiations but SD43’s District Parent Advisory Council chair said she doesn’t want a legislated agreement either. Heidi Hass Gable acknowledges that while little progress has been made in talks, she would like to see teachers and the government work towards a more harmonious relationship.
In the meantime, she encourages parents to continue to connect with teachers. “That’s what is going to make a difference today and tomorrow,” she said.