Without a contract and looking to drum up support, Ladysmith and Nanaimo teachers rallied at the school district’s administration office Wednesday evening.
A contract expired June 30 and a mediator, Dave Schaub, has been assisting in negotiations, but Denise Wood, Ladysmith teachers’ local union president, said the sides haven’t met since October and the union has not heard back from B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, the bargaining agent, about a request for more dates.
Teachers seek salary improvement that will address recruitment and retention in B.C., and although the Nanaimo-Ladysmith district has terms related to class size and composition, such language is sought for all districts, according to Wood.
“We are here to highlight to the public the lack of funding for public education, the state of bargaining, but also to call trustees to account because trustees direct BCPSEA,” said Wood. “The [B.C. School Trustees Association] has gone on the record as saying they support BCPSEA and their efforts at the bargaining table and that they consulted extensively with the development of the proposals that BCPSEA brought to the table, which were huge concessions and really insulting to teachers.”
Wood said although a “rollover package” – essentially an extension of the previous deal – was offered in late September, the employer hasn’t brought anything new to the table since April 2.
In an e-mail, Stephanie Higginson, Nanaimo-Ladysmith trustee and BCSTA president, said she believes that next steps to reaching a deal are about both sides seeking common interest and possessing a willingness to compromise. The association is willing to work creatively and collaboratively with teachers at the table to help both in reaching their objectives, she said.
“As the employer, boards of education always work from a broader perspective, the big-picture view,” said Higginson. “We must look to balance the interest of student needs with teacher workload provisions. Collectively, the employer is looking to optimize student learning conditions through modernizing collective agreement language to meet the complex needs of students in 2019 while protecting teacher workload provisions.
“We are not looking for concessions, we are looking for changes in outdated collective agreement language that dates as far back as the late 1980s. We absolutely believe this is possible and we are willing to do this at the bargaining table.”
In a statement, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said the ministry hopes an agreement is reached soon.
“Negotiations are a give-and-take process,” said Fleming. “It is our hope that both sides will take time to consider this constructive path forward and consult their memberships.”
Charlene McKay, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board chairperson, said the school district supports teachers during bargaining and understands demonstrations are part of the process.
“The board encourages the provincial bargaining agents to commit to a process that will lead to a renewed collective agreement,” McKay said in an e-mail. “We respect the mediator’s request that bargaining remains at the bargaining table.”
Approximately 50 people attended the rally, say organizers.
— Karl Yu (@KarlYuBulletin) November 28, 2019