Teachers vote to ratify new contract

B.C. School districts to vote on deal this week.

The end to the ongoing contract dispute between teachers and the provincial government drew closer on Friday as B.C. Teachers voted 75 per cent in favour of ratifying a tentative deal that would see an end to their job action and a return to normal teaching practices this September.

However, another contract dispute may be around the corner as the new deal expires next year.

More than 21,044 teachers cast ballots province-wide, a turnout rate of 52 per cent. Local teachers cast their ballots Thursday and Friday.

BCTF president Susan Lambert said the contract does little for teachers, but noted that teachers will be back at bargaining table early next year to negotiate the next contract.

“I doubt you could find a single teacher in B.C. who is happy with this agreement because it does absolutely nothing to improve the situation in classrooms for students or teachers,” she said. “It doesn’t address class size and composition nor does it provide a fair and reasonable salary increase for our members, who have fallen far behind teachers in other parts of Canada.”

The deal still has to be ratified by representatives of the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, the province’s bargaining agent for B.C.’s school districts in the ongoing contract dispute, who will be voting on Wednesday.

BCPSEA chair Melanie Joy encouraged reps to ratify the agreement.

“We hope this tentative agreement will be carefully considered by both boards of education and teachers, and that they will agree this is a reasonable settlement at this time,” she said in a press release last week.

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Board of Education have voted to support the deal.

Board chair Mike Murray said he was very pleased the two sides were able to reach an agreement, but noted there will still be much work to do come next year when the new contract expires.

Dana Sirsiris, the school district’s head of human resources, described the deal as “bare bones,” but the deal will help return things to normal in the classroom.

“We want to move forward and continue to have a good relationship with our teachers,” she said.

Teachers across the province have been taking part in ongoing job action since last September, when contract talks broke down. Teachers have been without a contract since June 2011.

In April, B.C. teachers voted to withdraw extracurricular volunteering, bringing an end to many school sports and after-school events, in response to the provincial government’s decision to legislate them back to work, following a walk-out in March.