B.C. teachers set for big pay bump after reaching tentative contract agreement with province

Students head to school on Jan. 10. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Students head to school on Jan. 10. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

After more than six months of negotiations, the B.C. Public School Employers' Association announced on Monday that it has reached a tentative contract agreement with the B.C. Teachers' Federation.

BCTF President Clint Johnston is recommending members sign off on the contract because he says the proposed agreement offers significant salary gains and other important benefits.

"If ratified, this agreement will take us from near the lowest paid teachers in Canada into the top tier," Johnston said in a statement sent to members on Sunday.

Johnston said the annual pay for teachers on the high end of the salary grid will be $10,000 to $13,500 more per year, by the end of the three-year term.

"For the first time ever, experienced B.C. teachers will cross the $100,000-per-year threshold," he said. "Putting you much closer to, or even above, teachers in places like Calgary and Toronto."

Under the proposed terms, new BCTF members would earn approximately $6,000 to $8,500 more a year in three years time, depending on their roles, he said.

Province pleased to be making progress

The BCPSEA, which negotiates on behalf of the provincial government, said in a statement that the deal was struck on Friday.

The association says the agreement follows the provincial shared recovery mandate, which sets out specific wage increases, offers inflation protection and ensures the government has the resources to protect services and support economic recovery.

British Columbia's minister of finance, Selina Robinson, said in a statement that she was "pleased to see a tentative agreement has been reached." Robinson says 51 per cent of public sector employees who were in negotiations for new contracts are now covered by tentative or ratified agreements.

"This is a positive demonstration that the best agreements happen at the bargaining table," she said, adding that she would leave any further comment until after the ratification process.

"What I can say is that this is a fair and reasonable deal for employees now and three years from now."

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

The employer's association says in kindergarten to Grade 12 public education in B.C. there are almost 49,000 teachers represented by the teaching federation, teaching 570,000 students in 60 school districts.

"Teachers play an incredibly important role in the lives of their students and their communities," said Leanne Bowes, the BCSPEA's executive director of labour relations.

"The dedication of teachers throughout the pandemic has brought much needed support to so many families."

Negotiations began on March 15 and both sides met a total of 47 times.

Along with wage increases, Johnston says the new deal includes 10 more minutes of preparation time for elementary teachers, better health and maternity benefits and minimum standards across the province for professional development funding.

The union said negotiating teacher workloads was challenging and frustrating, but the bargaining team felt the agreement is the best it could get.

BCTF teachers, BCPSEA board members and trustee representatives all have to ratify the agreement, which is expected to take several weeks. A ratification vote will be held by each union local between Nov. 16 and 18.