Negotiations for the next collective agreement for teachers will start sooner than expected.
Instead of starting in March, bargaining will begin Feb. 4, with proposals exchanged no later than March 1, as agreed upon by the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association on Saturday.
The BCTF and BCPSEA will mutually appoint a facilitator to assist with bargaining from the outset. Both parties will equally share the cost of the facilitator.
The BCTF and BCPSEA will develop a common data study to reach agreement on the cost of items brought to the table and to work out what will be negotiated at provincial and local levels.
Such harmony was not to be found earlier last week after Liberal Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Don McRae announced a plan for a 10-year agreement with teachers on Jan. 24.
The BCTF said the government's proposed plan ignores court rulings that teachers have the right to bargain working conditions, including class size and composition.
McRae said in a ministry-released statement that the government expects to negotiate these issues.
The government's plan provides for a $100-million "investment fund" available in the third year of the agreement; a formal place for teachers to have a say on a new Education Policy Council with representatives from government, the BCTF and school board trustees; indexing of public school teachers' compensation to an average of other major B.C. public sector increases; and a new structured and transparent bargaining process. The framework allows teachers the right to strike.
Teachers' salaries and benefits would be on par with those of nurses, college faculty and government employees. The mix of wages and benefits would be determined through bargaining.
The ministry sought submissions from the BCTF, BCPSEA, B.C. School Trustees' Association, B.C. School Superintendents' Association, B.C. Principals' and Vice Principals' Association and the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils in the development of the framework.
The ministry would implement the framework following the May provincial election if all parties agreed to it.
The collective agreement expires June 30.