EDITORIAL: Bargaining can be constructive

Some real and substantive bargaining has taken place. But it doesn’t involve the teachers.

While all the sound and fury over education bargaining in the past four months has come from the B.C.Teachers Federation and B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, some real and substantive bargaining has taken place.

But it doesn’t involve the teachers.

The BCPSEA has quietly concluded an agreement in principle with representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and other unions representing support staff in the K-12 public education system.

The agreement is not a final contract, but an overarching framework which will apply if school districts can come to an agreement with their locals by Feb. 29.

The deal calls for no wage increases from 2010 to 2012, but does have a wage reopener clause, should provincial guidelines calling for a “net zero” result from contracts change. It does include some additional money, notably $7.5 million annually for preparation time for educational assistants, and $550,000 for a support staff education and adjustment commitee.

CUPE has not been beating the political drums against the government over education funding, as has the BCTF. Rather, it has worked diligently with the employers’ representative to come up with a realistic contract that calls for no concessions. At the same time, it  recognizes that the taxpayers’ ability to pay more has all but run out.

The BCTF has legitimate issues about class size and composition, and how to resolve a lawsuit it won over past changes to its contract.

But both the province and teachers need to bargain constructively and realistically, as we’ve seen with the support staff unions.

The education system should be functioning fully, in order to carry out its mandate of developing today’s children into tomorrow’s responsible adults.

– Black Press

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