Premier Christy Clark announced today a review of the teacher bargaining process and even raised the ambitious goal of reaching a 10-year contract deal.
Clark revealed the news at an afternoon press conference with Education Minister Don McRae, a former teacher.
Clark said two goals will guide the review, which will be led by McRae and his team: long-term labour stability with teachers and improving how government works with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.
“It’s worth thinking about what could be achieved, for example, with a 10-year deal for teachers. Imagine a child in Grade 2 starting this year could go all the way to Grade 12 without any threat of labour disruption. Think of the impact on these kids’ education if we could get a 10-year deal with teachers,” she said.
“Think of the impact on teachers in the classroom who like labour disruptions and disputes no more than anyone else. Can this be done? I think it’s worth trying to do. So today, I’m asking Don McRae and his team to lead government in an effort to fix the process for bargaining with the teachers’ union.”
McRae said he’s witnessed the impact of labour disputes first hand. He missed the high school rugby championships in Grade 11 due to work to rule, he worried about completing his practicum due to job action, and last year during the labour dispute his daughter was in Grade 3.
“It’s not easy for us to put the long history of labour issues behind us. There will be skeptics on all sides, but this is the single-most important task I can take on as education minister and a dad,” he said.
McRae added that he’ll focus on the “how the parties bargain, not on what they bargain.”
Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus tweeted after the press conference “chronic underfunding of public education is hurting students far more than the bargaining process is,” and “I hope the Minister [is] aware he is in co-governance role with school boards.”
More to come from Courier reporter Cheryl Rossi later today, including reaction from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.