2013: A Year in Preview – Teachers return to bargaining

The BCTF finally reached an agreement with the province after nearly two years of stalled contract negotiations on July 26, 2012

The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation finally reached an agreement with the province after nearly two years of stalled contract negotiations on July 26, 2012 – just four days shy of the agreement deadline. This winter the negotiations return.

Tara Ehrcke, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association is hopeful bargaining for the next contract, mandated to begin by March 1, will run more smoothly than the previous session, but she’s far from confident positive change is on the way – at least before the provincial election on May 14.

“Most people saw the agreement as a truce,” Ehrcke said. “Nothing much changed.”

She won’t rule out the possibility of reaching a deal prior to a potential change in government, but the chances, as she sees them, are slim.

“There are so many unknowns. Will the election change how parties function in bargaining? I’m not sure. If there’s change in government, will that change bargaining? Likely, I would say.”

Following a successful Supreme Court case against the province, the teachers’ union now has the right to bring class size bargaining back to the table. Since the July 26 agreement was reached, the province also solicited feedback on bargaining structures.

Coupled with what Ehrcke says is a certain change in government two months into talks, it leaves too many variables to make predictions on how the next round of contract negotiations might transpire, she said. And then there’s the untouched issue of salary increases.

“As we’ve seen with other public sector unions – nobody was prepared to take further zeroes and I’m sure that will be the case with us as well.”