Province plans to impose contract on teachers

B.C. Education Minister George Abbott announced Thursday that he intends to introduce legislation next week to end the ongoing teacher job action, and impose a contract.

B.C. Liberal house leader Rich Coleman said the legislation could be presented as early as mid-week, but the debate on the provincial budget would take precedence until next Thursday unless there is an emergency situation.

“Teachers are deeply concerned that the government plans to once again trample on working people’s rights by legislating a contract with B.C.’s 41,000 teachers.,” said Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union president Kevin Epp.

Abbott wouldn’t give specifics about the terms of the teacher contract he plans to impose, but said it would conform to the Liberal government’s net-zero mandate of no wage increases for public-sector employees. The BCTF had proposed a three-year contract that would see teachers given a 15 per cent increase over that span.

Epp said the BCPSEA has not only demanded that teachers agree to the “net zero” mandate in terms of salary, but are demanding significant concessions that would mean teachers with years of service are without job security.

“I find it particularly insulting that government and BCPSEA feel they can treat teachers in this way,” said Epp. “Imagine if teachers held the legislative power, showed up at the table on day one with an opening offer, made no effort to negotiate, and then had the government legislate their opening offer. It sounds absurd because it is.”

Teachers are planning a demonstration for Monday on Main Street in front of Pen High at 3:30 p.m.

Abbott said he was disappointed and saddened to impose the contract, but said he felt he had no other option.

“Teachers will be upset, but in some cases they will be relieved,” he said. “The union leadership will take a dim view of it, but I will not let a dispute among adults affect kids.”

Teachers across the province have been doing essential service only since September, refusing to meet with school administration or complete report cards. Teachers have been without a contract since June 2011.


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