Tentative deal in teachers' strike 

Teachers vote to ratify sept. 18

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - BACK TO SCHOOL  Teachers at Myrtle Philip Community School were all smiles Tuesday morning after news that a tentative agreement had been reached to end the teachers' strike.
  • photo by braden dupuis
  • BACK TO SCHOOL Teachers at Myrtle Philip Community School were all smiles Tuesday morning after news that a tentative agreement had been reached to end the teachers' strike.

After a handful of marathon bargaining sessions earlier this week, the BC Teachers' Federation is set to vote Thursday, Sept. 18 on the ratification of a deal between itself and the BC Public Schools Employers Association.

If voted through, schools in the province could open as early as Monday.

As of Tuesday, Sept.16, schools in the Sea to Sky District had no set date to reopen should the deal be ratified on Thursday.

"We don't have any information on a return-to-work or school startup plan, but we anticipate getting information from the ministry over the next couple of days," school superintendent Lisa McCullough said on Sept. 16.

"In our school district, what our parents need to understand is we are ready to take the kids in as soon as we can, and as we receive some kind of a return to work plan we'll interpret that into a school startup plan and get them back as fast as we can."

Updates will be posted to the district's website at www.sd48seatosky.org as they become available, McCullough said.

The tentative agreement struck between the two parties in the early hours of Tuesday morning ended a months-long labour dispute that saw students miss a total of five weeks of classes this year.

As of Sept. 16, there were no firm details about what will be done to make up for the lost time.

At a press conference on Tuesday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark called the six-year agreement "historic."

"This has never been done before in B.C.'s history," she said.

"We'll have five years in which we can sit and talk about the things that really matter and that's improving education for children in classrooms, and thinking about how we can improve that."

The fact that the agreement was reached through negotiation rather than legislation will serve to improve relations between teachers and the government, Clark said.

"It allows us to reset that relationship which has been dysfunctional for so long," she said.

"It means that we can sit respectfully and talk respectfully about something that matters to both the government, to the teachers' union, to classroom teachers, to parents and to students."

In a press conference of his own on Tuesday afternoon, BCTF president Jim Iker offered a similar thought.

"It's always been our hope... to begin developing a positive relationship with government," Iker said.

"So I'm hoping that we can sit down and start working toward that relationship and start addressing the continued needs of our students and our schools."

Meanwhile, it was all smiles on the picket lines Tuesday morning after word came about the tentative agreement.

"It's fantastic," said Craig Smith, one of four teachers outside Myrtle Philip Community School Tuesday morning.

"We just want to get back to work and benefit the students of British Columbia."

New signs drafted for Tuesday morning's picketing took a celebratory tone, and drivers and passers by showed their support through waves and honks.

"It's been really fantastic this morning," Smith said.

"Lots of waves, lots of honks and smiling faces, so it's great to be going back to work very soon."

Visit www.bctf.ca or for more details.

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