Teachers’ union, province reach tentative agreement

Public schools could reopen as soon as next week following a ratification vote by the union.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. Public Schools Employers' Association reached a tentative agreement on Tuesday morning to end a full-scale strike and reopen public schools.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. Public Schools Employers' Association reached a tentative agreement on Tuesday morning to end a full-scale strike and reopen public schools.

The teachers’ union and the B.C. government have reached a tentative settlement that could see schools reopen across the province as early as next week after a three-month long strike.

The BC Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public Schools Employers’ Association reached an agreement in the early hours of Tuesday morning after negotiating a marathon session in the sixth day of talks involving veteran mediator Vince Ready in Richmond.

The deal must go to a ratification vote by BCTF members on Thursday, with the province-wide results likely coming through on Friday.

“We’re all pretty excited,” said Lynn Hauptman, superintendent for School District No. 5. “I know when I came into work this morning and stopped and chatted with the folks on the picket line, we were all cheering. I had a brief email conversation with our union president—it’s the same thing there.

“…We’re just so excited for our students and their parents to have the children back in school. We hope it’s on Monday, but we’re still not sure.”

Specific details regarding the new agreement between the two sides have yet to be made public as of press time.

The announcement, which came in at roughly 4 a.m. on Tuesday, was well-received by Shelley Balfour, president of the Cranbrook District Teachers’ Association.

“I am very excited for the parents, the children, the teachers and the support workers in B.C,” she said. “This is a great day. I anticipate that we will be back to school early next week and we can’t all hardly wait to get there.

“I visited the teachers on the line this morning and the reaction has all been very positive. Everybody wants to be back to work.”

The first step is ratification, which could happen as early as Thursday or Friday. Once a new agreement is officially in place, teachers can return to the classroom and start preparing for the year.

“We would like a day at least to get stuff organized because many people walked out in June and have not been able to return,” added Balfour. “We have people who retired who have all their stuff still in the classroom—that all needs to come out.

“We want it to be great for the kids when they come back, so hopefully we’ll have a day to do that.”

Maintenance and custodial staff, which are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), have been in the schools all summer to keep everything in good shape, according to Hauptman.

“They’re clean their ready to go,” she said. “We were able to do a lot of our big projects over the summer, so we’re ready.”

The school calendar was set to open on Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, however, the BCTF remained on a full-scale strike, as the union and the the BCPSEA had yet to bridge the gap on a number of issues regarding a new collective bargaining agreement.

The impact on students missing out on three complete weeks of school has yet to be determined, according to Hauptman.

“That is information that we need to wait to come from the Ministry of Education, so I know they’re looking at all those kind of things,” Hauptman said. “They were waiting to find out how much of the school year was affected through this then they’ll make some decisions and let us know.”

School could potentially open as early as Monday and open in the same fashion as a new school year, meaning elementary schools are only in session for a half-day.

“At the moment, we’re planning—if it is Monday—that it will be our usual school opening,” added Hauptman, “which for elementary school, is a half-day, so that we can still meet as a staff and do some of the work that has to be done in terms of school openings.”

For more information on the start of the new school year, visit the SD5 website at www.sd5.bc.ca.