Nanaimo teachers' union heard at provincial bargaining

The Nanaimo District Teachers' Association lobbied the province last week for expanded local bargaining opportunities.

Local representatives gave a presentation to the B.C. Public School Employers' Association at the provincial bargaining table in Vancouver.

Derek DeGear, NDTA president, said the focus was on new hiring language developed by the union, which the district and trustees believe has brought more stability to the district.

The new language was developed partly to reduce the number of layoffs that occur at the end of each school year – including specialty teachers who cannot be replaced – and give teachers more employment predictability.

The union says the agreement is a good example of the effectiveness of local bargaining at finding solutions to unique local issues and would like to include the agreement – with some minor tweaks and clarifications – in teacher contracts. This is not currently possible because post-and-fill is designated a provincially bargained issue, said DeGear.

"There's buy-in by the groups and I don't think there's any BCPSEA proposal that can do that," said DeGear.

"What we're finding is there's a provincial table going on that is focusing on some big issues. They're never going to get to our local post-and-fill language."

In its Jan. 4 collective bargaining update, the association agreed with the NDTA that there are a number of issues in the current post-and-fill language that should be updated, but it believes that common provincial language is the most productive and effective way of dealing with these issues.

"It kind of summed up where BCPSEA is at on many issues – they think they can do it better than us," said DeGear. "We've put our point out there. We'll wait and see what comes of it."

"When you look at the districts across the province … there's a large number of similarities," said Jacquie Griffiths, BCPSEA associate executive director. "Let's not do the same thing 60 times."

She said the association has a proposal on the table to deal with post-and-fill issues, but the B.C. Teachers' Federation has not responded with any counter-proposal to date and maintains its position that this item should be bargained locally.

DeGear said the union feels that the employers' association's proposal puts too much control in the hands of school principals without a system of accountability for decisions made about hiring or transferring teachers.

He believes Nanaimo has come up with a fair and transparent system of filling vacancies that ensures the most qualified candidate gets the position.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said the old system, which resulted in mass layoffs each year, was not the best way to manage things, but the new school board has not yet taken a position on whether to support local bargaining.

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