A tentative agreement was reached between the provincial government and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation over the weekend following a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada last fall that will impact class sizes and composition.
The ruling restored provisions that were stripped out of the collective bargaining process back in 2002. The deal, reached through a Memorandum of Agreement, provides clarity on class size and composition, non-enrolling staff and process language that is now restored.
“This is great news for students, parents, and teachers,” said Education Minister Mike Bernier, in a press release. “If ratified, the agreement means thousands more teachers, more resources and more classroom supports. If ratified, it will build on the $100 million for up to 1,100 new teachers announced in January’s interim agreement with the BCTF and the record funding increase we just announced in the budget.”
The agreement was triggered by the Supreme Court ruling, however, the last collective bargaining agreement — signed in 2013 — allowed for the two sides to reopen and renegotiate the issue.
“Of course, I am very happy that the Provincial parties came to an agreement before Spring staffing begins in preparation for September,” said Shelley Balfour, president of the Cranbrook and District Teachers’ Association. “The stripped language has now been restored which means smaller class sizes in many cases for our children and teachers, more specialized teachers back in our schools and classrooms including Librarians, Learning Assistance and Counsellors.”
Balfour added that after 15 years, it’s time for the government to step up and restore proper funding to schools that were impacted by staffing as a result of the stripped collective bargaining language.
“We haven’t seen the money from the Provincial Government yet but district staff are currently in budget discussions with schools,” Balfour said. “The changes in the class size and composition language will definitely impact the school budgets.”
Negotiations for the MOA began at the end of last November and included 27 bargaining sessions. Further details will be released once the new agreement has been ratified by members this week.