B.C. teachers, employer reach tentative deal on new collective agreement

A tentative agreement has been reached with British Columbia's 45,000 public school teachers.

Details of the contract won't be released until after it's ratified, although the government says the deal was reached under the guidelines of its sustainable services negotiating mandate.

In 2019, that mandate included a two-per-cent wage increase over each of three years.

The contract covers teachers who work in 60 B.C. school districts.

A tweet from the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) says the executive committee is recommending the agreement be accepted.

The BCTF said in the tweet that the deal had been reached after "marathon" negotiating sessions this week.

The last deal between the BCTF and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) expired in June of 2019.

In the year of negotiations that followed, the BCTF said it was focused on better wages to improve the province's ability to attract teachers, to make up a shortfall.

It also wanted equitable student learning conditions across school districts, like having equal access to resources, including special needs staff for vulnerable children who require extra learning or behavioural support.

Alan Chell, the chair of the BCPSEA board of directors, commended the two sides for working out a deal amid the coronavirus pandemic. Classes in B.C. are currently suspended.

'Recognized need'

"With the challenges, concerns and priorities arising from the global COVID-19 pandemic, we're very pleased that both parties recognized the need to bring this round of bargaining to conclusion," said Chell in a release.

He is hopeful that education boards and teachers will ratify the agreement "and that we can work together to focus on continuity of student learning, as well as the health and safety of our school communities."

The BCTF says it is emailing details of the agreement to its members Thursday night.

In a tweet, it said that, "Given the current circumstances with COVID-19, our ratification vote will be different this time around and we are already working on what that will look like."

Most B.C. teachers will be back on the job Monday — albeit from home — trying to figure out how to keep the learning going amid the social distancing demands brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.