- Our Town
$5 million benefits bill to be sent to BCTF, if no deal
B.C.'s school district negotiators have served notice that they will bill the teachers' union for June employee benefit premiums if a contract settlement isn't reached by the end of the school year.
The cost of benefit premiums for the 40,000 members of the B.C. Teachers' Federation is estimated at about $5 million a month. It would be paid by the employer only if a contract settlement is ratified by union members by the end of June, and if the BCTF does not go out on a full-scale strike by that time.
Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA), proposed the benefit charge as a new strategy to respond to the BCTF's multi-stage strike action that began April 23. Teachers are refusing out-of-class supervision and communication with administration as the first phase.
B.C.'s Labour Relations Act allows for the transfer of benefit costs to unions that withdraw services, but Cameron said it has never been used in a teacher dispute before.
BCTF president Jim Iker said last week he considers the transfer of benefit costs to be "retaliatory and punitive" at a time when teachers are still providing full classroom service and meeting with parents.
BCPSEA also notified the union that a year-end "administrative day" set for June 27 will be cancelled unless the dispute is settled. Teachers would lose a day's pay.
The second phase of the BCTF plan is rotating one-day strikes in B.C.'s 60 school districts, which could begin at any time. Phase three, a full-scale strike, would require another vote by BCTF members.
In a memo to school board chairs and superintendents Wednesday, BCPSEA interim CEO Mike Roberts said there has been "no recent progress at the bargaining table and no indication from the union that it is willing to significantly compromise on any of its current demands."
Roberts reiterated BCPSEA's position that its wage offer of 6.5% over six years is consistent with other wage settlements for provincial employees. The BCTF tabled a new wage offer Wednesday with raises and cost-of-living increases estimated at 15.9% over four years.