Saanich teachers honour CUPE picket line while BCTF negotiated with the province for a new teacher contract. (Black Press Media file photo)

Saanich teachers honour CUPE picket line while BCTF negotiates for new teacher contract

Update on BCTF negotations with the province expected Friday

Despite dealing with ongoing negotiations and having no contract, the teachers in School District 63 (SD63) have honoured the CUPE Local 441 picket line since the support workers went on strike on Oct. 28.

The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), which represents the province, have been in negotiations since Feb. 19 in an effort to agree on a renewed Provincial Collective Agreement as the previous agreement was set to expire on June 30.

The sides have met several times since February but have yet to come to an agreement so B.C. teachers currently have no contract.

On Nov. 1, mediator David Schaub of the Labour Relations Board of British Columbia presented a report containing recommendations for settlement to both the BCTF and the BCPSEA. Schaub asked that both sides come to him with a decision by the end of the day on Friday, Nov. 8.

Both sides were unable to comment on the report on Thursday as Schaub requested a media blackout until 4 p.m. on Friday. The blackout applies to all involved, including the teachers.

READ ALSO: Talks break off between CUPE, SD63 as strike heads toward the end of day eight

READ ALSO: Pay disparity at heart of Saanich schools strike has 45-year-old roots

After the blackout, the sides will be free to release the report to the public and provide comments on the contents, said Schaub.

He noted that both sides routinely hold their ground in negotiations and that no agreements between the BCPSEA and the BCTF have been negotiated without the involvement of a third party since 1987. He also emphasized that no concessions were contained in the Nov. 1 report.

If both sides agree to the report, they can move forward with a contract, but if they don’t agree, then future dates will be set for further negotiations. Schaub feels it’s too early to discuss a possible BCTF strike and emphasized that the teachers have not had a strike vote during this round of negotiations.

Schools in SD63 have been closed for almost two weeks and talks between CUPE Local 441 and the district broke off again on Nov. 5. Picket lines are expected to remain as week two of the strike draws to a close.

Saanich teachers have have lost about two weeks pay as they’ve been honouring the CUPE Local 441 picket line, explained Carolyn Howe, first vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association. They’ve been receiving strike pay – $50 per day– thanks to a donation from the BCTF, she noted.

The teachers also recognize that CUPE staff supported the teacher strike in 2014, Howe said.

“This should remind the province that issues in education are real and that staff are willing to lose money over it.”

BCTF President Teri Mooring doesn’t feel the CUPE Local 441 strike will affect the BCTF’s negotiations, but noted the situation is “unique” as teachers are “usually the ones picketing.”

The BCTF contributed to the strike pay for SD63 teachers and to CUPE Local 441 to show support, said Mooring.

She noted that negotiations between the BCTF and the BCPSEA have been long and not as productive as teachers had hoped. Teachers have given up salary and benefits in the past in an effort to improve learning conditions for students and hoped that this time, they wouldn’t have to make concessions about wage increases in line with cost of living, Mooring explained.

The B.C. government says it values public education and the BCTF hopes to see that being demonstrated as the quest for a deal wages on.

B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming was not available for comment by press time.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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