School could be back in session as soon as Monday in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows after the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and province reached a tentative agreement in the early hours of Tuesday.
Neither side was releasing many details about the six-year agreement, which teachers will vote to ratify tomorrow (Thursday).
The announcement of a deal was tweeted by the BCTF at 3:50 a.m. on Tuesday, at the end of a 16-hour bargaining session.
Maple Ridge Teachers’ Association president George Serra was hopeful when talks over the weekend did not result in veteran mediator Vince Ready “checking out,” as he did earlier when the sides were still too far apart.
Serra had his last contact with a member of the BCTF negotiating team at about midnight, and said it was looking like a deal was in the offing.
Teachers are relieved an agreement has been reached.
“There’s definitely a buzz and an excitement,” said Serra.
The school board is hopeful teachers approved the deal.
“It’s great to see it come to a positive conclusion,” said board chair Mike Murray. “It has been an ordeal, for sure.”
Murray said School District No. 42 schools will open as soon as possible, and he is optimistic that will be Monday.
He noted that teachers’ normal year-end preparations for the following year were interrupted by the June strike, so there is a lot of work to be done before school starts.
“Hopefully, things can happen as quickly as possible, and we can get kids back in classrooms.”
Premier Christy Clark spoke in general terms about the deal Tuesday afternoon.
She said teachers received a fair raise that was within the province’s fiscal plan.
“It was a painful thing for so many families to have to endure this work stoppage,” said Clark. “But because they gave us the space on both sides of the table … we were able to come to a negotiated settlement. It took time.”
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said students may make up classroom time missed during the strike, which will be approximately three weeks of this school year. The plan could involve rescheduling Christmas holidays, spring break or adding days to the end of the school year. Every student’s education will be “kept whole,” particularly senior high school students looking ahead to post-secondary studies, he said.
The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association was seeking a six-year agreement with wage increases of just over one per cent per year, in line with other settlements in the provincial public service. The deal, as it appears to be shaping up in various reports, looks like a 7.25 per cent wage increase over six years, backdated to 2013. As well, funds have been put towards class size and composition.
The agreement includes money to settle thousands of union grievances accumulated since the province removed class size and teacher staffing levels from the teacher contract in 2002.
Clark said the deal includes increased funds to hire more teachers to address class size and special needs support. It is for six years, retroactive to the expiry of the earlier agreement last spring, with raises averaging just over one per cent per year.
The government’s appeal of a court decision ordering the return of 2002 class size provisions will continue, Clark said.
– Black Press files