When negotiations resume with the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) in September, there will be a new face sitting across the table from them.
A “public administrator” has been appointed to replace school trustees on the board of the government’s bargaining agency.
According to a government release, this is only a temporary measure that will “ensure government can advance its plans to restructure the K-12 bargaining process and its mandate to secure a long-term deal with the BCTF.”
They are hoping to secure a 10-year deal, and are hopeful the appointment of Michael Marchbank (the CEO of the Hospital Employers’ Association), with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) under his direction, will help achieve that goal.
The announcement of the appointment, made by Education Minister Peter Fassenbender, surprised school trustees around the province.
He denied the suggestion he is setting up a “showdown” with teachers that would shut down schools and turn the public against the unions.
“It’s not about pitting them against us,” Fassbender said. “It’s about finding a new road map where we can achieve that goal.”
The move is also to meet a request of the BCTF to bargain directly with the B.C. government according to Fassbender. The government also intends to eliminate essential services rules that keep schools open with minimum staff during strikes.
The BCTF is returning to court this fall to seek restoration of bargaining for class size and special needs support.
School support staff, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, are to resume negotiations for a new contract this month, after walking away last spring because their negotiators didn’t believe BCPSEA had an adequate mandate to get a settlement.
CUPE employees have not had a raise in four years.
“CUPE education workers keep BC schools clean, safe, and inclusive,” said Colin Pawson, Chair of the CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ Council.
“The government needs to get back to the bargaining table with funded offers in order to avert more job action in the fall.”