Monthly Archives: May 2013

Latest Update re:Bargaining and LIF

Hi Folks,

I guess this update is best described as the good(ish), the bad and the mediocre …. You get to decide which is which.

Provincial Bargaining

If you recall way back in the fall the Clark Government called for input into new bargaining structures with teachers.  Foolishly we submitted a brief and expectedly it was ignored.   The resulting document, published in January has come to be known as the “10 year deal”.  It is also known by many other names, a few of which are actually printable;  the “10 year steal” or the “10 year muzzle” ,come to mind.   Essentially the document eliminates any ability to negotiate class size and composition, and salary and benefits.  But, we did gain the ability to call a strike in the summer.   It would is not a road map to labour peace with teachers, as said premier would have us believe.

It was quickly put to the side because it was clearly a political document meant to gain some traction during a time when no one, including the liberal government, thought they were going to win an election.

Also, in the mean time, provincial bargaining was happening.  There was an initial agreement to expand the scope of local bargaining (more on this in a bit) and it established a facilitated process for actual negotiations to occur.  Negotiations are not what one might characterize as rosy, and BCPSEA continued with much of their contract stripping language, but negotiations were  happening, with the assistance of Marc Brown from the Labour Board..

Apparently, no one informed the gods as to how the world was supposed to unfold!

Fast forward to last weekend.  The BCTF Rep. Assembly was meeting in Vancouver.  Janet Steffenhagen from the Vancouver Sun called Susan Lambert and asked for a comment on the letter to her from the Deputy Minister of Education.  It would seem Ms Steffenhagen had the letter before Susan.   The lack of respect aside, the Deputy Minister informed Susan and the BCTF that the nature of bargaining will change and the so-called, “ 10 year deal” will be the guiding principle for the government.  This is before we even have a new Minister of Education.  I wonder where the Deputy Minister received his instructions.  BCPSEA also received a similar letter suspending its current bargaining mandate and suggesting they may want to rethink the planned bargaining dates.

BCPSEA has chosen not to reconsider the scheduled bargaining dates and the BCTF and BCPSEA bargaining teams just met on May 28th and 29th.  This is the link for a report from the table for theses days:

I believe it would be relatively safe to say, we have not heard the end of this story.

Local Bargaining

Compared to the provincial scene, Local Bargaining has been just ducky, thank you very much!  We met with the District team on April 22nd, May 22nd, and May 27th.

The bargaining has been very respectful and we have been able to accomplish a few of our objectives.  BCPSEA continues to restrict the School Board’s ability to negotiate areas that are not specifically designated Local Matters.  There is an understanding some issues will be addressed at a later time through the mid contract modification process.

We have a tentative understanding on some issues from our list of objectives, and the discussion continues on some of our other objectives.  Before anything can be signed off with the School District there will be a membership ratification vote on proposed changes.

The tentative agreements, so far, focus on the Post and Fill process and Parental Complaints.   The Post and Fill understanding would change a bit so that, except in unusual circumstances, any vacancy will be posted in the district and filled by the most senior qualified applicant.   The Parental Complaint language attempts to establish a less onerous process to resolve a parental complaint.  We have also tried to give some clarity to what constitutes a cultural leave.

We continue to discuss issues around consultation and collaboration, TTOC issues, and provision of tech equipment.

We are scheduled to meet again on Monday June 3rd, and Monday June 24th, if needed.

I hope to get around to talk to all school staffs beginning next week.  There are a number of provincial issues we could be facing in the next few weeks and it would be a good way to provide greater detail about any tentative local agreements with the School District.  If there is a time that works better for your staff, could you please let me know.


The district would like meet about the LIF positions on June 11th.  I sent out some information about this a little while  ago.  More information and feedback is always better than less information.  If you have not already done so could you please have this discussion with your staff.    We can continue the discussion with the school visits.

Thanks folks, hope to see everyone soon.



Fred Robertson

Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association

Message from BCTF President Susan Lambert – Contract Negotiations

Dear colleague:

Premier Christy Clark’s 10-year bargaining plan for public school teachers is flawed in a number of significant ways. It ignores court rulings, contradicts government’s own legislation, and puts at risk the current round of provincial bargaining.

On the surface, the premier’s rhetoric sounds conciliatory after more than a decade of conflict between the BCTF and the BC Liberals, but in reality the premier’s plan is another effort to severely limit teachers’ constitutional right to bargain and to intrude into the bargaining process yet again.

A key problem is that it ignores the ruling of the BC Supreme Court that teachers have the right to bargain working conditions, such as class size and class composition. The Liberals’ own Bill 22 also allows for these issues to be negotiated in this round but the premier’s new plan requires teachers to give up this hard-won right. Over the past decade, with Liberal policies regulating learning conditions, class sizes grew and support for students with special needs suffered.

As a consequence of chronic underfunding, BC has the worst student-educator ratio in the country, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. In order to bring BC’s teacher staffing levels just up to the national average, the province would have to hire an astounding 6,600 more teachers. BC also lags the country in per-pupil funding. Currently this government spends $1,000 less per student than the national average.

Another major problem is that the plan would index teachers’ salaries to average increases negotiated by other government employees. This is fundamentally unfair because it effectively prohibits teachers from negotiating for their own salaries. Under such a scheme, government has all the cards. The average of net zero is zero. BC teachers’ salaries are lagging far behind those of other teachers in Canada, and the gap will only widen under this plan.

On February 14, 2013, in a meeting with the BCTF table officers, Education Minister Don McRae stated that no government could ever commit to 10 years of indexing because the economic climate changes.

We’re well into bargaining with BCPSEA along with the assistance of facilitator Mark Brown. Both parties have tabled their full packages and both sides are intent on reaching a negotiated agreement before June 30, 2013. Throughout this process, government representatives have been at the table and have never brought forward the premier’s 10-year scheme.

Teachers, more than anyone, would welcome stability in the education sector. But disrupting negotiations at this point is contrary to the premier’s stated goal of labour peace. For government to unilaterally suspend talks is the ultimate intrusion and could scuttle productive negotiations and prolong bargaining beyond June 30.

We want a fair deal for teachers and better support for students. A fair outcome can only be reached through a fair process, and resources being brought to the table.

The next few weeks may bring significant developments for this round of bargaining. We will do our very best to keep you informed. Please read updates you receive at school, attend local meetings, and share your perspectives with colleagues. Together, we must make decisions that will make a difference for teachers, students, and public education in BC.

Thank you,

Susan Lambert


Staffing and LIF

May 13th

Greetings everyone,


The lay off /recall process is now complete.  Everyone who was on laid off or was on the recall is has made their choice for next year.  As you may have seen, the district just posted the resulting available positions. Mostly, these posting consist of part time positions.  Some are as small as one-block postings.  In the past some folks have been able to combine some of the posted vacancies.  This makes for a larger percentage of an assignment, however the nature of the position a bit eclectic, at best.

As there is no one left on the recall list, any position that should become vacant will be posted in the same manner.

Anyone is always able to apply for any posted position.

We will meet with the District for local bargaining again on Wednesday, May 22nd.  The main item on the agenda will be post and fill.  The district has indicated they are willing to discuss post and fill.  Our objective is to open the process up as much as possible.  We will let you know of any progress we make at the bargaining table.  Any potential agreement we may come to with the District is always subject to a ratification vote of our membership.

LIF positions

 The Learning Improvement Fund was established last year by the government as a response the court case we won with respect to the 2001 stripping of class size and composition from our contracts.  After cutting $2.5 billion from education over ten years, the addition of slightly over $100 million over 3 years is hardly an adequate response.  The courts will rule on the adequacy of the response later this year.

Having said that the SD #85 share of the LIF money amounted to $232,000 for staffing this year.   The same amount will be directed toward staffing next year.  According to the statute that established the fund the money is to be over and above existing staffing.  There must also be consultation with the union before the funds are allocated.  12% of the fund is to be spent on CUPE positions.  The rest is to be spent on teaching staff.

Last year the process consisted of the union and the District consulting with school staffs and then meeting to consult about how the money would be spent.  That resulted in 2.0 FTE being assigned to schools – often in fairly small bits.  There was also money assigned to each school for Professional Development-type activities.  It was not quite what we had wanted; however there have been some very positive reports from some schools.  The entire fund is meant to be spent each year.  This year most of the folks who ultimately filled the positions were at the beginning of the salary scale.  It became clear there was sufficient money to allow for a further 0.5 posting at Christmas.

We have had an initial meeting with the Superintendent and Asst. Superintendent.  We reviewed how the money had been spent and what could be presented to staffs for consultation for next year.  One of the thoughts was to try and limit the smaller bits of positions.

The discussion focused on posting in the neighbourhod of 2.7-2.8 FTE.  The thinking was to split this equally between the 4 larger schools in the district and post a .5 FTE itinerant position to work with the smaller schools.  This position would be full time to the end of January.  The idea was to have the person work intensively with a school for several weeks at a time rather than divide the position into wee tiny bits at each school.

The exact nature of each position will be left to each school staff to decide. The regulation stipulates that the funds be directed toward ‘Learning Improvement’.  I am not clear what part of anyone’s job is not directed toward learning improvement, but heh, we didn’t write the thing.

So, coming to a staff near you, will be a discussion/consultation about the Leaning Improvement Fund for the 2013-14 school year.

As a VINTA staff, could you:

a)  have the discussion as to how the fund could be potentially dispersed, and

b) what the assignment at your school could look like.

I am available, and more that happy to come and discuss this with any and all staffs.


There was discussion earlier in the spring about the re-introduction of teacher evaluations every 3-5 years. This discussion has been put aside for the time being.  BCPSEA plans to table language at the provincial table on some form of teacher evaluation.  This will likely happen at some point after the election.  Any local discussion at this time would be problematic – at best.



Fred Robertson

Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association

Exercise Your Right To Vote

May 14, let’s elect a government that will give kids the education they deserve!

 As teachers, we have all witnessed the impact of a decade of underfunding and erosion of public education.

Over the years we’ve struggled to teach to individual needs, even though our classes are overcrowded and impossibly complex. We’ve lost 3,500 full-time teaching positions, including 1,500 specialist teachers. Along with parents we’ve fought to save our neighbourhood schools from the chopping block, and fought back tears when we saw almost 200 schools close their doors.  We’ve faced attacks on our rights and our professionalism. We’ve been told to do more with less as school boards are forced to slash programs and staffing to balance inadequate budgets.

Now it’s time to send a message to Victoria that this has got to stop.

Just imagine having a government that genuinely cared about kids, one that provided proper support to schools, and actually listened to the voices and concerns of teachers. What an enormous difference it would make in our classrooms and communities!

Please, get out and vote on May 14! The future health of our public education system is at stake.

Advance polling starts Wednesday, May 8, and runs through to Saturday, May 11, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily. For the full list of advance voting places and election day voting places, visit Elections BC.

Please, take five! Encourage everyone you know also to exercise their voting rights. Teachers, students, and our public schools need a change.

Update: AGM, local bargaining, and other important stuff

Hi Folks,

2013-14 Executive Committee

There were about 30 people who attended our Annual general Meeting on Wednesday evening.  We elected the following people as our executive for the 2013-14 school year:

President                                      Fred Robertson
Vice President                             Karen Zoffmann
Secretary Treasurer                   Robert Fyles
Local Representative                Shawn Gough
Member At Large                       Sandra Gunson

Pro-D Chair                                 Kevin Ogren
Bargaining Chair                       Richard Starr
Social Justice Chair                   Greg Murray
Health and Safety Rep.             Jackie Poynter
Aboriginal Education Rep.      Teresa Wadhams
Teacher on Call Rep.                 Lani Siminoff

The newly elected Executive bears a remarkable resemblance to this year’s executive.
Thank you to everyone who let his or her name stand for a position on the Executive.

New Fee Structure

At last year’s AGM there was a motion to investigate changing our fee structure from a flat rate of $600 per year to a rate based upon a percent of salary.  The argument was that a percentage of salary based fee structure was a more even and fair structure.

Robert conducted that research over the year and presented it to our Rep. Assembly.   It became clear that if we were going to change the way we assess fees this would be a good year to do it.  We are currently in a situation where we bring in a bit more in fees than we spend. The discussion at the RA reflected the principle that if we change there should be no increase to anyone’s VINTA fee.   A .68% fee would result in folks at the top of the salary grid paying roughly the same amount (a wee bit less actually) and a descending amount as you go down the scale.  We would take in less money in fees by the end of the year.

The RA felt we could afford it and recommended a motion to the AGM that the VINTA fee is set at .68% of salary.  This motion was debated at the AGM and passed.

So, our VINTA fee, for the 2013-14 school year, will be .68% percent of salary.  The calculations of what the fee will be for each grid step is on the VINTA website under the Publication’s menu.  This is the link:


The district has begun the staffing process for next year.  They will be cutting over 6.5 FTE positions from existing teaching staff.  As a result there are 13 people who are laid off, bumped or returned to the recall list.  Due to retirements and leaves there are a number of positions on the available positions list.  The process will continue in order of seniority until everyone on the lay-off / recall list has had his or her turn.

The district maintains these cuts are necessitated due to financial pressures and declining enrolment.  At our budget presentation to the Board we suggested SD #85 has a very high level of administration for such a small district, and while there are very real funding issues there are also issues around their spending priorities.  Needless to say, the school district did not agree with our assessment.

Whatever the reasons for the cuts, it is clear that that the result will be fewer supports and services for our students.

Local Bargaining

We had our first round of local bargaining with the district on Monday April 22nd.  Our team is made up of Robert Fyles, Shawn Gough, Robena Maclaren, Jackie  Poynter, Richard Starr, Teresa Wadhams, and moi.  The Board team is Katherine McIntosh, John Martin, and Leightan Wishart.

After introductions each side presented their opening statements and bargaining objectives.  Our objectives include issues around post and fill, TTOC rights, professional autonomy, consultation, parental complaints, duties and rate of a TIC, health and Safety and a few other smaller items.  The District’s mentioned they had submitted their bargaining plan to BCPSEA for approval.  They had an oral presentation of their objectives.    They were fairly modest.  They included some similar objectives in areas VINTA had identified and the need to align the CA with Employment Standards legislation.  They also wanted to address areas where there had been grievances.

We were able to sign off the protocols for these negotiations very quickly.  We were also able to agree on some very strait-forward issues.   We agreed that TTOC’s should be issued a key for the school where they were working when they arrive at the building and that all TTOC’s should receive an orientation for any school where they will be working.  These are pretty clear Health and Safety requirements and it was noted they fall under the heading of common sense.  We also agreed to sign of the areas that brought the CA (mostly Mat. Leave language) in line with legislation.  We also agreed to adjust a housekeeping error with an incorrect reference.  It was also made clear the district was not prepared to discuss professional autonomy as this was at the provincial table.

One of the largest challenges we faced was finding the days to negotiate.  Our next scheduled days are not until May 22nd and May 29th.

There is no clear dispute resolution mechanism with these local negotiations.  Essentially, if either side says a definite ‘No’, there is not really any recourse.  As a result we have agreed to try more of an ‘Interest-Based’ approach to these negotiations.  The idea is to establish the central principle around each of the objectives and through discussion, try to arrive at language that would satisfy each side’s ‘interest’.

We started this process with the Post and Fill articles of our Collective Agreement.  We both agree that the current language was written at a time when the district was about three times the size and growing.  We have seen enormous declines since we were able to negotiate the language.  There is also mutual acknowledgement of the fact that there is almost no ability for more senior members of the local to move to new positions or positions that may become vacant.  It was acknowledged there needs to be a balance between the rights of more senior members to use their seniority to apply for a vacant position and the employment rights of more junior employees going through a lay-off recall process.  The tricky bit is what this would look like in our Collective Agreement.  We will continue the Post and Fill discussion on May 22nd.  Any understanding we might reach with the district would come to a vote of the membership.

Provincial Bargaining

There is provincial bargaining taking place as well.  Both sides have met several times and exchanged objectives and proposals.  The atmosphere at the table would appear to have improved since last round, however that has not changed BCPSEA’s agenda.  The reality is that things are essentially on hold until after the election.  A change of government should have an impact on what happens at the provincial table.    This is the link to the reports from the provincial table. You will need your member portal id # and password.

Living With Balance

There are currently 9 people who have registered for the program.  The program needs an enrolment of 10 to proceed. From all accounts the program is very well received wherever it has been offered.  If you are contemplating registering please go to the following link to register online.


I don’t think this really qualifies as saving the best ‘til the last.  (Not best anyway)

Senior management in the district recently mentioned they were thinking of re-introducing a regular process of rotating evaluations.  To be clear, the district has been consistent with completing an evaluation during a person’s first year in the district, or at the specific request of an individual.

The notion of re-introducing rotating evaluations every few years is problematic on a whole bunch of different levels.  I don’t know about you, but I have not had a formal evaluation in a few decades and I don’t believe my skills and abilities as a teacher have suffered as a result.  As recently as last year BCPSEA agreed to the idea Professional Growth Plans. It was not written into the provincial agreement because it was dependant on another issue, however the principle was established.

The reality is that these so-called evaluations serve no purpose other than to cause undue stress.  They certainly don’t make us better teachers.

The other labour-law reality is that the district cannot simply re-introduce evaluations because they believe it is a lovely idea.   The labour principle in this instance is called “estoppel.”  If the district has established a clear practice, (i.e. they have not been doing rotating evaluations for many, many years), they cannot simply turn around and say we will do the exact opposite.  They have “estopped” themselves.  This is true even though we do have evaluation language in our Collective Agreement.

If you hear of any suggestions that regular rotating evaluations are returning to a school near you please call the VINTA office.

Fred Robertson
Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association