CCTA walks from bargaining table

local teachers walks away from local bargaining

The Cariboo Chilcotin Teachers Association (CCTA) has walked away from the local bargaining table in its negotiations toward a new collective agreement with the School District 27 (SD27) board.

CCTA president Joan Erb says the union local ended their negotiations in June because they were making no progress.

“We put together probably 60 proposals and the board came back with one. It was a bit of a low blow.”

The ball is now in the school board’s court, she says, adding the CCTA won’t return to the table until the board brings something to negotiate.

Trustee Pete Penner, who is the board’s representative at the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), says there isn’t much the board can do in terms of local negotiations because the board must follow BCPSEA guidelines.

“It’s too bad we couldn’t finish the negotiations, and if [the CCTA members] want to say that it’s finished, then that’s their point of view.”

BCPSEA direction mandates school boards can’t bargain locally on any items on the list for provincial negotiation unless they get approval, Penner explains. So until that happens, he adds, the SD27 trustees’ hands are tied.

“We would like to keep going [on local negotiations], once we get permission to move on.”

Meanwhile, bargaining continues at the provincial level between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and BCPSEA, which negotiates on behalf of the province.

“It’s not looking good,” says Erb.

“The government is sticking to zero [wage increase] and the BCTF is sticking to 20 per cent. They are miles apart.”

If teachers strike this fall, as they voted to do in June, phase 1 will see teachers remain on the job to teach, communicate with parents and volunteer for extra-curricular activities.

They won’t, however, be supervising students outside the classroom or attending management meetings.

The CCTA president says she is a little “dismayed” with the current public perception of teachers.

After reading an editorial implying teachers should “get their heads out of the chalk dust and be realistic,” and receiving similar comments directly, Erb fears many people in the community don’t understand how the bargaining process works.

“Bargaining is all about negotiating, and the teachers are shooting high.”

She notes that in 2005, teachers asked for a 34 per cent increase, and settled on 16 per cent over five years.

“I want the public to understand that we’re not going on strike for 20 per cent. We’re going on strike to negotiate a salary increase.”

After the recent success of defeating Bills 27 and 28 in the supreme court to reinstate the collective bargaining rights of teachers in the province, Erb says she is hoping the BCTF will put forward a “real effort” to explain to the general public what bargaining is all about.

The BCTF and its various local organizations will meet Aug. 19-21 to determine their next strategy, Erb notes.