Teachers reach tentative deal with province.

Alberni District Teachers' Union reacts to news of tentative deal between BCTF and provincial government. Teachers will vote this week.

Port Alberni teachers will likely support an agreement reached between the provincial government and British Columbia Teachers Federation, Alberni District Teacher’s Union president Ken Zydyk said.

The one-year agreement is consistent with the government’s net-zero mandate,

Education Minister George Abbott noted in a news release on Tuesday night.

“…the parties agreed to further discuss and seek mutually agreeable improvements on key policy issues to provide students with the best education possible,” Abbott noted.

Information circulated by the BCTF and forwarded to the Alberni Valley News lists details of the agreement as:

•    The employer’s concessions regarding seniority and “suitability” are off the table.

•    A benefits plan that improves benefits for 75 per cent of the members and has a commitment of government funding of $2 million for implementation. Locals will have the option of entering into the standardized plan.

•    Compassionate care: eight weeks of paid leave (EI plus top-up).

•    Unpaid discretionary leave entitlement of three days.

•    Family responsibility leave of five unpaid days.

•    Bereavement leave: five paid days of bereavement leave with an expanded definition of family for most members.

•    Renewed recruitment and retention allowance.

The province’s 41,000 teachers have been without a contract for more than one year, and have rotated through phases of job action culminating in a three-day strike and back to work legislation last spring.

The BCTF Executive Committee is recommending ratification, president Susan Lambert said in a news release.

“We have been able to achieve some modest improvements but, above all, we succeeded in getting government to take its concession demands off the table,” Lambert said.

Some important matters remain unresolved: there are no improvements in class size and composition; and teachers’ salaries lag behind their peers in other provinces.

Zydyk said he is cautiously optimistic about the deal. “I think the members will be pleased with the details once we release them,” Zydyk said. “I expect Alberni teachers will support it.”

It looked like there were no substantive negotiations going on but they kicked in at this late stage, resulting in the agreement, he added.

Zydyk wouldn’t confirm any details of the agreement, saying that members have to be apprised.

“Compromise can be tough for either side,” he said.

Details of the agreement will be circulated to teachers on Wednesday. Voting on the agreement will take place on Thursday and Friday, and the results released Friday night, Zydyk said.

Teachers can cast their vote at each school, and teachers on call can register their vote at the ADTU office on Argyle Street.

The tentative deal standardizes language for a number of leaves and establishes a process for the local/provincial bargaining process, a news release from the BC Public School Employers Association noted.

School District 70 trustee Rosemarie Buchanan said she hopes both sides will ratify the deal. “I think we all hope that the coming school year will be peaceful and back to normal.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com