Tentative agreement for B.C. teachers getting mixed reviews

The BCTF says the tentative agreement it reached with the province will see wages for B.C. teachers catch up to their colleagues across the country. Monika Gul reports the Surrey Teachers’ Association isn’t so sure.

The new tentative agreement between the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation and the province is being welcomed by some, while others fear it won’t go far enough.

The BCTF says the deal announced on Monday includes increased health benefits, prep time for elementary school teachers, and wage increases up to $13,500 more a year for teachers at the top of the salary grid.

Read More: B.C. teachers reach new tentative agreement with province


President of the BCTF, Clint Johnston, says the union is pleased with the deal.

“This is a deal that we’re really happy with, we’re really proud to be able to recommend this to members. They’ve had a long, difficult few years, as we’ve all had, with COVID,” he said.

However, some in the profession say there’s more to be desired with the new agreement.

President of the Surrey Teachers’ Association, Jatinder Bir, says while there are a lot of great things in the tentative agreement, it doesn’t go far enough on working conditions, especially when it comes to specialist teachers who she says are not replaced when they can’t work.

“We’re already in a very populated school district, class sizes are already full and so when you have kids that have needs, and teachers are not being replaced, it has implications,” she told CityNews.

Bir is also concerned about the promise of teaching salaries matching those seen in other parts of the country.

“There definitely is salary improvements for teachers, and it’s supposed to bring us at par, if not better,” she said. “But my understanding is that Ontario teachers are still bargaining. So, what does that look like? If they gain, BC teachers will still have not achieved across Canada.”

Associate professor of educational studies at the University of British Columbia, Jason Ellis, says it’s surprising the agreement doesn’t address class size and composition.

“That’s the issue that has caused a great deal of controversy over the past 20 or more years in B.C. education. So, the fact that it was not an issue in this round of negotiations is quite striking,” he said. “But in other ways it’s not surprising because their members, like everyone else in the province, is going to have to deal with inflation and what it does to real wages.”

Johnston says the BCTF wasn’t able to get the employer to budge on class size and composition.

“That’s definitely a frustration, our members need those workload conditions improved,” he said.

Teachers will vote on the deal from Nov. 16 to 18.

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