September 17, 2014 - 12:09 PM
KAMLOOPS - The atmosphere was one of celebration as Premier Christy Clark and her cabinet sat in on a luncheon in Kamloops Wednesday, though outside teachers gathered to continue the rally for a better education system.
“A lot of the issues around public education still remain,” David Komljenovic, president of the local teachers’ union and member of the provincial bargaining team, said. “We’re pleased we have a collective agreement…. There are other issues in public education we still believe need to be solved though.”
Komljenovic said the agreement is not the one teachers deserve, but believes it is the best they will get under the circumstances and it is likely better than the one they would have got if they had gone in to binding arbitration.
“I do understand how people would vote against it,” he said. “We believe this is the best agreement we can get at this time. Binding arbitration probably would’ve been very similar, or probably even poorer than this (agreement.)”
While Komljenovic was outside the conference centre in Aberdeen rallying with the several hundred teachers and other union members there to support public education, as well as several dozen people protesting the proposed Ajax mine, Clark was inside with her entire cabinet and about 300 guests celebrating the tentative agreement.
As cabinet ministers were introduced, the loudest applause came for Education Minister Peter Fassbender and not long after Clark gave a passionate speech outlining how the two sides are now ready to work on their relationship.
“We decided to lay down our arms, to call a truce,” she said, “to give ourselves the freedom to have a real functioning relationship where we can talk meaningfully about how we’re going to improve the future.”
She noted both parties came a long way at the table and hopes the two sides can now rebuild their relationship.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the agreement is within the mandate and will not affect the ability of the province to keep a balanced budget.
More than 90 per cent of eligible students have been registered for the $40 per day support payments. De Jong said if the agreement is ratified Thursday the average family, with two students in elementary school during the work stoppage, will be receiving a check in October for more than $1,000.
Komljenovic expects the agreement will be ratified based on the recommendation from the teachers’ union executive and hopes the two sides will be able to work on their relationship and improving public education going forward as well.
Teachers have been on strike since the end of last school year and even if the tentative agreement, which was announced Tuesday, is ratified students will have missed at least three weeks of school already this year. Teachers are set to vote on the agreement Thursday and have never voted against something the union executive has recommended.
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— This story was updated at 3:58 p.m., Sept. 17, 2014.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014