Parents relieved about new teacher deal

NANAIMO – Teachers and parents alike are relieved that a deal has been reached between the teachers' union and the province.

Teachers and parents alike are relieved that a deal has been reached between the teachers’ union and the province.

Teachers voted 75 per cent in favour of the deal between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, although just 52 per cent cast ballots during the voting period June 27-29.

School board representatives to the BCPSEA provincial council voted 100 per cent in favour.

The agreement, which expires June 30, 2013, secures modest improvements in benefits and leave provisions and provides teachers, students and parents with a degree of stability next year.

“Being in job action almost an entire year … people are just tired,” said Justin Green, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association. “We’re relieved, but we’re not necessarily happy. It’s been a very long year and nothing to really get excited about other than relief in that we know what September is going to look like as far as our contract goes. If we hadn’t accepted this, there would have been legislation and there was no telling what that would look like.”

He said about 100 teachers attended an information-sharing meeting the union held last week and the majority were opposed to accepting the agreement.

“It did nothing for class size and composition and for special needs kids and I think that’s where a considerable amount of the anger came from,” said Green.

Parent Karen Hoy is thrilled teachers decided to ratify the contract.

“I’m expecting a little bit of back-to-normal,” she said. “There was so much uncertainty. It was hard not getting report cards. I know of parents who had no idea how their kids were doing.”

Teachers withdrew from voluntary services in the spring as part of the action plan to resist Bill 22 – provincial legislation that suspended job action and appointed a mediator with specific terms of reference to help resolve the dispute.

Hoy was worried that school sports would be cancelled next fall if no agreement was reached.

“My kids are really into sports, it was going to be really horrible for them,” she said.

Parent Jennifer King said the past year was characterized by anxiety and confusion for many parents who didn’t understand what was going on and unsure of how it would affect them and their children.

“I’m happy to hear that they have something resolved and in place for a year,” she said. “I think when [teacher job actions] impact students and parents, they get less support. People get more upset about the actions and they lose the whole intent of them.”

King would like to see teachers use the year to educate the public more about their concerns because she feels the message was lost on a lot of parents.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said the two parties agreed to discuss some outstanding issues between now and October, but the deal means things should be back to normal next fall.

“Having said that, negotiations for the next contract will start up towards the end of the school year,” he said.

Dave Hutchinson, superintendent of schools, said he is happy the district will start the school year without job action and district staff plan to focus their energies on strategic planning and the development of district goals that give priority to the improvement of student learning.