VICTORIA - Government introduced Bill 22 today, the Education Improvement Act, that suspends the teachers' strike action and sets a "cooling off" period, appoints a mediator to facilitate bargaining, and implements a new $165-million Learning Improvement Fund and other enhancements to K-12 education.
Bill 22 imposes a cooling off period and suspends the teachers' union strike action while calling on the assistance of a mediator. The legislation does not impose a new contract. Rather, it extends the previous collective agreement to cover the mediation period, with the goal of reaching a negotiated agreement by the beginning of summer. If there is no agreement, then the mediator will issue a report by June 30, 2012 with non-binding recommendations.
The mediator will work to balance the interests of employers and employees and their mandate includes the ability to help find agreement on manner and consequences of class organization and the local-provincial split of bargaining issues. Their mandate also requires that any proposed solutions must not result in net new costs for school districts.
The Education Improvement Act also includes several initiatives that will benefit teachers, including the Learning Improvement Fund to help teachers meet complex needs in their classrooms and the restoration of class size and related matters to the scope of collective bargaining. The legislation streamlines and sets the stage for more effective consultations between teachers and administrators on class organization matters and mandates additional compensation for teachers where class size exceeds 30 students. Collectively, the improvements serve as the government's response to last year's B.C. Supreme Court decision on Bills 27 and 28.
Minister of Education George Abbott -
"We're putting more money into the classroom, we're improving supports for students and teachers, we're providing additional teacher compensation where class size exceeds the student limit, and we're restoring the opportunity to bargain class size and related matters. Taken together, these are significant gains that recognize the important role and contribution of teachers."
"We are not prepared to see a school year pass without every parent in B.C. getting a full accounting of how their children are progressing in school. We are particularly concerned about the impact on vulnerable students. Using legislation to resolve stalled negotiations is never the preferred option, but we need to end the disruptive strike that's creating a strain in our schools and classrooms."
"We are hopeful that a mediator can help the parties achieve a negotiated agreement, in keeping with the more than 100 agreements already achieved under the government's bargaining mandate."
"The employers are prepared to talk about how to improve benefits for teachers, how to ensure the right teachers are matched to the right jobs and how to support good teachers so they can become great teachers. We hope that mediation can also re-engage the parties in a discussion of how we can make a great education system even better."
"We hope the teachers' union will take a constructive approach and respect the cooling off period. However, if they choose a different path, the legislation includes stiff financial consequences for illegal strike action."
You can find the Feb. 23 report on the status of BCTF and BCPSEA negotiations (the Hughes Report) at: www.gov.bc.ca/citz/reports_publications.html
For more information related to K-12 teacher contract negotiations, visit: www.bcpsea.bc.ca
To read about BC's Education Plan and get involved in the conversation, visit: www.bcedplan.ca
About Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act: http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th4th/1st_read/gov22-1.htm
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Education
Facts about BCPSEA and BCTF contract negotiations:
- There have been 78 face-to-face negotiating sessions between the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) and the British Columbia Public Schools Employer Association (BCPSEA) since negotiations began on March 1, 2011.
- According to BCPSEA, the BCTF's demand for a 15 per cent wage increase and other benefit improvements exceed $2.06 billion.
- Trevor Hughes, assistant deputy minister of Industrial Relations, Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government, conducted an inquiry and on Feb. 23 issued a report the status of bargaining
- The Hughes Report concluded that parties have not been able to narrow the outstanding issues and it is very unlikely that they will be able to reach a voluntary settlement of their collective bargaining dispute.
- Under the net-zero mandate, there have been 130 agreements and agreements in principle covering 75 per cent of almost 300,000 unionized public sector employees and 75 per cent of public sector collective agreements negotiated to date.
- The BCTF represents the last major group of employees yet to reach agreement under the net-zero mandate.
Cooling Off Period and Mediation:
- Bill 22 imposes a cooling off period to the end of August, which suspends all strike and lockout activities while a mediator attempts to facilitate a negotiated agreement between the BCTF and BCPSEA.
- The mediator's mandate is clear that any contract proposals or agreements cannot impose net additional costs on employers.
- The mediation period will run up to June 30, 2012; if there is no agreement, then the mediator will issue a report with non-binding recommendations by June 30.
- The mediator will seek to balance the employers and union's demands and help find agreement on matters such as:
- manner and consequences of class size and composition,
- the local-provincial split of bargaining issues,
- effective feedback and evaluation of teachers to promote improvements,
- alignment of professional development with teaching needs, and
- scheduling and selection of teachers suited to student needs.
- The mediator can help the parties arrive at compensation improvements, whether to wages or benefits, by looking for trade-offs within the contract - just as other public sector unions have achieved under the net-zero mandate.
- The existing collective agreement remains in effect during the mediation and cooling off period.
- The legislation includes stiff financial consequences for employers, BCPSEA, BCTF, and individuals engaged in illegal strike action or lockouts during mediation.
- The government will only bring the penalty section into force if it is needed to support the cooling off period.
Learning Improvement Fund:
- This fall, the first $30 million from the Learning Improvement Fund will be allocated to classrooms with the highest need in the province. This will increase to $60 million in 2013-14 and to $75 million in 2014-15 and each year thereafter.
- Districts will be able to use funds to:
- hire additional teachers and special education assistants;
- provide additional teaching time; and
- support professional development and training to help teachers meet complex needs in their classrooms.
- This process will involve consultations with the union, classroom teachers, and district and school staff.
- The new fund is in addition to the more than $850 million per year already ear-marked for special needs students.
Collective Bargaining on Class Size and Related Matters:
- Bill 22 restores class size and related matters to the scope of collective bargaining, effective for the next round of bargaining expected to begin in Spring 2013.
- The act does not restore the collective agreement provisions in place prior to 2002. Future bargaining on class size matters will start from the most recent contract, which does not include provisions related to class size and composition.
- While full bargaining on class size will resume in the next round of bargaining, the mediator can address issues related to "manner and consequences" of class organization in the current round of negotiations.
Class Size Limits and Compensation:
- Bill 22 eliminates the use of district class size averages and requires additional compensation for teachers with classes that exceed the maximum of 30 students in grades 4-12.
- If the principal considers the learning conditions appropriate, and if approved by the superintendent, a class may exceed 30 students but the school districts must provide additional compensation for the classroom teacher, proportionate to the added workload.
- The compensation can consist of additional preparation time, professional development funding, increased pay, or a combination of different accommodations.
- The new cap will not apply to some subjects where large groups are desirable, such as band and drama; for all other subjects, the 30 student maximum will apply.
- The act maintains the strict class size limits for kindergarten to Grade 3; under no circumstances can classes exceed 22 students in kindergarten or 24 students in grades 1-3.
Consultation on Class Organization:
- Bill 22 eliminates the formulaic and cumbersome consultation process that only applied when there were three or more students with special needs assigned to a class.
- The Minister of Education will seek an order-in-council to amend the school regulation to make it explicit, that as part of their core duties, principals have a duty to consult, and teachers have a duty to advise, on all matters of class organization, including the placement of students with special needs.
- The intent is to promote regular communication between teachers and principals about overall class organization and the allocation of resources to provide an effective learning environment for all students.
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Education