BCPSEA negotiator “frustrated” by teachers’ strike vote

The BC Teachers’ Federation’s decision to  hold a strike vote is premature and breaks a “mutually agreed-upon communications protocol during collective bargaining,” says the chief negotiator for the BC Public School Employers’ Association.

“Further bargaining dates have already been scheduled for next week, and in fact will occur on the dates that the BCTF is conducting its strike vote,” Peter Cameron said in a statement released several hours after the BCTF announced its decision.

“We are also disappointed that the BCTF did not give the BCPSEA bargaining team any prior notification of this decision.”

He also sdescribed the union’s announcement as “counter productive.”

“Holding a strike vote before the union has fully tabled its proposals raises significant concerns about its commitment to reaching a negotiated agreement,” Cameron said. We are now a full year into the bargaining process and we have yet to receive a specific proposal on salary increases from the union.

“BCPSEA has tabled a comprehensive package of proposals. Rather than tabling a corresponding proposal for discussion, including a first proposal on salaries, the BCTF has called a strike vote. This creates unnecessary anxiety for students, parents, and employees.”

BCPSEA and the BCTF had also signed a formal agreement at the commencement of negotiations to not “bargain in the media,”  he said.

“Without notice or prior consultation, the BCTF has unilaterally broken the bargaining protocol agreement which states:

“The parties will make a concerted effort to keep collective bargaining out of the public realm. For example, neither party will post specific bargaining proposals/bargaining language on the public pages of their respective websites.”

Cameron’s statement said the commitment to not circulate proposals or specific details of the talks to the general public or media was established to try to facilitate productive discussions at the table and avoid a focus on public relations campaigns and confrontation during bargaining, which have proven to be unfortunate distractions to bargaining in the past.

The parties had been in communication with each other as recently as yesterday, when the union failed to answer direct questions regarding a potential strike vote or the tabling of their wage demands.

The statement said that to date, the BCPSEA comprehensive offer to the union includes:

  1. A 6.5% wage increase over the first half of the proposed 10-year agreement plus additional fiscal dividend entitlements tied to improvement of the provincial GDP;
  2. Improvements to benefits that would be equal in value to the percentage salary increases over the same time period;
  3. A full re-opening of wage, benefit, and all policy matters at the mid-point of the agreement toward providing further improvements, as well as the opportunity for binding arbitration if agreement is not reached; and

A return of class size and class composition language to the collective agreement ensuring that the current Learning Improvement Fund processes and funding (increasing in 2014-15 to $75M per year) remain in place, the statement said.

“BCPSEA has tabled fair and respectful opening proposals at the bargaining table,” Cameron said. “We will continue to provide updates on a regular basis, while also continuing our commitment to conclude a collective agreement with the BCTF at the bargaining table.”