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Good afternoon,

Collective bargaining is about movement. It’s about both sides moving closer together for the best interests of all involved.

Unfortunately, the BC government has not moved in any meaningful way for months. In fact, they have not added a single new dollar to their proposal to improve learning conditions for students since October 2013. That’s 11 months with no movement from this government on the most important issue—more support for children in our classrooms.

Instead of finding creative ways to solve the dispute and get schools open, the government is actually trying to prolong the shutdown with their $40-a-day payment scheme. That amounts to $12 million a day and $60 million a week of taxpayers’ money that should be put into the education system to give students and teachers more resources.

In addition, the Minister of Education is going to great lengths to make the gap between his government and BC teachers appear as wide as possible. But, when you crunch the numbers, the gap adds up to only $3 per student, per day.

Is fixing a system that has been underfunded for 12 years expensive? Yes. Of course it is. But, the government needs to rethink its priorities and put kids first. If they can build a roof on BC Place for half a billion dollars, or give a private power company in California $750 million, we can afford to invest in smaller classes, more support for children with special needs, and more specialist teachers to help all students reach their full potential.

There is an achievable framework that can end this impasse and reach a fair settlement for all involved through mediation.

On term, the two sides are only one year apart.

On salary we are only one percent apart.

Teachers have also asked for a signing bonus, an idea originally proposed by the government.

That signing bonus would reflect that one year of this agreement has already gone by with no increase. In fact, BC teachers haven’t had a salary increase since 2010. That’s three zeros in a row.

More importantly, a deal needs to ensure there are meaningful improvements to student-learning conditions this year. The government has only offered the status quo—a learning improvement fund that has not got the job done. BC teachers are asking for a new $175 million fund in the first year. Even the government’s own staff testified in court that the unconstitutional legislation they passed in 2002 stripped about $300 million a year from classrooms. Teachers are asking for some of that money back in a special fund while we wait for the government’s appeal of its losses to wind its way through the courts.

BC teachers have proposed a simple and practical way forward on the issues of our students’ learning conditions while the court process continues.

First, a fund to address the learning needs of our students. The distribution of this fund at the community level would be decided by the local school district and local union to put more classroom and specialist teachers in schools with our kids.

Second, we have also proposed a fund to remedy the thousands of grievances that could flow from the Court’s ruling that the government illegally stripped teachers’ collective agreements. They denied our students smaller classes, extra support for students with special needs, and more one-on-one time over the last 12 years.

This $100 million fund would serve as a redress for teachers and a settlement with government for their unconstitutional actions, similar to how they settled with the Hospital Employees Union for $75 million back in 2008.

What teachers have asked for is to use this proposed remedy to help improve preparation time for Elementary school teachers and some other small health benefits. Government can choose to take this offer or potentially see thousands of costly and time-consuming grievances in the future.

There are three major roadblocks to this settlement framework.

First, the government has been unwilling to let bargaining happen at a pace required to keep things moving forward. It took me 14 days of talks with BCPSEA’s lead negotiator in July to secure just one single bargaining date on August 8.

Second, the government has not responded in any meaningful way to the many significant moves BC teachers made face-to-face or through Vince Ready. The government remains entrenched and unwilling to be flexible.

Finally, the government is trying to negotiate its way out of the court case. Despite losing in BC Supreme Court twice, the government is trying to undo the implications of those rulings.

The BC Liberal government is fighting to keep funding out of the education system. Their proposal, E80, would “supersede and replace” all previous class size, class composition, and specialist teacher provisions.

They want to nullify what teachers just won back in court and any future court case. It’s an unreasonable stand to take and is preventing both sides from moving forward. This is the single biggest obstacle to getting a deal which would see schools open.

Teachers say, let the courts decide.

In the interim, increase funding to improve learning conditions and negotiate a fair settlement. The government needs to drop E80 and negotiate fairly with teachers so we can end the strike.

We have been ready to bargain any time, any day. We’re ready today if the government is willing to sit down, show flexibility, and be willing to compromise.

Teachers want to be back at work doing what we love most—teaching. If the government is willing to move in the way that teachers have, we can get this deal done.

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For more information, contact Rich Overgaard, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).

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