September 16, 2014 - 1:00 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - A tentative deal has been reached between teachers and the province and that means students could be back in school as early as Monday.
Kamloops-Thompson Teachers Association President David Komljenovic sits on the bargaining committee for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. He confirmed following a marathon bargaining session ending early Tuesday morning that Monday would likely be the earliest we would see students back in school.
Few details have been released about the tentative agreement but teachers are expected to ratify the agreement Thursday.
“We’re recommending they accept (the agreement),” teachers’ union president Jim Iker said Tuesday afternoon, noting members have never voted against a recommendation from the executive.
Premier Christy Clark said Tuesday afternoon that a six-year agreement had been reached.
“A historic six-year agreement has been reached, that has never been done before in British Columbia,” she said. “That means five years of labour peace ahead of us. We can talk about the things that really matter.”
Clark noted a negotiated settlement was very important to allowing the government to reset the relationship with teachers after ’30 years of dysfunction.’ The Premier also confirmed teachers will get a raise without taxes being raised and without a cut to services.
“It’s within our fiscal plan. We found a way to give a fair raise and improve classroom composition in a way that works for teachers and works for taxpayers,” Clark said. “It’s a meeting in the middle that respects teachers… and taxpayers.”
Iker elaborated on the agreement without giving many specific details, noting the agreement would allow for several hundred new teaching positions every year, a raise, better benefits, improvement in preparation time and the removal of the E80 clause dealing with the current court case around class size and composition.
He noted the details are currently being distributed to members, who will vote on Thursday and then, if the agreement is ratified, schools could reopen ‘sometime next week.’
While the strife between the two sides goes back a number of years the most recent negotiations began in early 2013. By April 2014 teachers began stage one of job action and a month later added rotating strikes. By the end of June teachers moved to a full strike, which carried over into the new school year.
If school does start back Monday as anticipated students will have missed the first three weeks of the school year.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said he is in discussions with school districts throughout the province to address the missed time.
“We will be announcing once (the deal) is ratified,” he said. “Plans are being put into place right now.”
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— This story was updated at 2:29 p.m., Sept, 16, 2014 with details and comments from the province.
— This story was updated at 5:13 p.m., Sept. 16, 2014 with additional details from the teachers' union.
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