Bargaining Update

April 11th, 2014

Hi Folks,

A few people have asked about what is happening at the bargaining table,  all of the referrals to the Labour Relations Board, and whether School Boards will be able to charge us for the cost of benefits.  As I may have mentioned before, the short answer is, ‘Jeez, I don’t know’.

That being said I will attempt my version of an explanation.

I believe all of the recent events ultimately stem from the government’s desire to continue with their strategy of trying to provoke a strike and subsequently bring in legislation.  This is what Justice Grifffin ruled against but the government seems to intent on continuing the strategy.  If you recall during our last job action the government and BCPSEA tried to deduct some part of our salaries when we were in the first phase of job action.  At the time districts did not go for it.  According to Justice Griffin’s ruling the government was hoping to provoke teachers into a full scale strike and then introduce legislation.    

Recently there was a conference call between the government / BCPSEA negotiator (Peter Cameron) and Superintendents and some trustees.  I gather there was more agreement that districts would try and charge teachers for the cost of benefits if we chose to go into stage one and not do supervision. Cameron sent Iker a letter to this effect.  In a bit of an unusual twist Cameron also suggested BCPSEA is not seeking essential service designations  (even though they were the ones who brought in the legislation that brought education under an essential service designation).  

However, the BCTF has gone to the LRB to seek a ruling on the government’s plan saying that during the last round that districts and local unions did agree on levels of service, and the same should apply in this instance – thereby asking the LRB to designate levels of service. 

BCPSEA then submitted their arguments about why they should be permitted to deduct the cost of benefits, and of course, we then made a submission of why BCPSEA is incorrect.  This subsequent submission from the BCTF has some lengthy quotes from the Justice Griffin’s court ruling.  

The LRB then referred the matter to the Minister of Justice requesting her to designate what the levels of essential service. 

Yesterday, the BCTF sent a letter to the LRB chair suggesting that it would be in the public interest if the LRB convened an informal meeting of all parties that could explore issues and processes.   The suggestion is for that meeting to happen early next week.   

And, just this afternoon we see a letter from the Minister of Justice directing the LRB to go ahead and establish levels of essential services at facilities around the province.

I think the line ‘it’s complicated’, comes to mind.

I believe all of the maneuverings through the LRB is an attempt to block BCPSEA from being able to charge for benefits during stage 1 of any potential job action.  

The government originally brought education under the essential service legislation, to which we have always objected.  Oddly enough, we may now be able to use that legislation to block BCPSEA from billing us for the benefit costs.  We will undoubtedly see an LRB ruling next week and we should know more about the government’s attempt to have us pay for all the benefit costs at that time.  

Now, having said all of this the BCTF Executive Committee is currently meeting.  It would be a REALLY, REALLY good idea to go to the bargaining section in the Members’ Portal:

There is a new document titled, ‘Confidential 72 hour strike notice update’. 

If you have any questions please feel free to call or e-mail any time.

Talk to you soon. 



Fred Robertson
Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association