BC Teachers’ Federation president, Teri Mooring, says the union remains committed to making a deal with the employer.
Mooring was reacting to a leaked memo, obtained by Global News, that lays out a four-stage plan that maps out gradual progressions in job action if mediated contract negotiations don’t bear fruit.
The BCTF represents 43,000 public school teachers across the province.
They are bargaining with the B.C. Public Sector Employers Council.
Mooring said the BCTF always errs on the side of communicating with its members.
“We send out information ahead of meetings and we know that, from time to time, things get leaked,” she said. “But we still err on the side of that communication because we think it’s really important, our members think it’s really important, and so it’s just part of what we do.”
Mooring wouldn’t elaborate on the details of the plan, “except to say that the way that we work in the federation is that our provincial body makes all our decisions that are like this, that around job action, and so, right now, members are having these conversations, the decision will be made at our representative assembly, and then we’ll go from there.”
In a Jan. 23 tweet, the BCTF said, “It has been a year of bargaining and of course we are talking to members about contingency plans if mediation concludes without a good deal. We hope the #bcpoli employer will agree to meeting dates soon. The #bced mediator is still engaged. We don’t expect any imminent changes.”
Mooring said the two sides have been at the bargaining table for a year, and anytime a union has been at the table for that long and doesn’t have a deal, inevitably there are conversations around different kinds of job actions.
“What’s happening currently is a lot of our locals are engaging in actions like burma shaves (holding signs, waving to traffic) and rallies at MLAs’ offices and we’ve done an email campaign, just to let government know that we want a deal and we’re trying to put some pressure on around that,” Mooring said.
“This is a conversation that’s ongoing and I don’t think anyone’s too surprised that right now the BCTF is having this conversation.”
She said the BCTF has its regularly scheduled provincial meeting coming up, “where definitely these items will be discussed.”
Mooring stressed that the two sides are in mediation and that the BCTF is very committed to that process.
“We are wanting to get a deal and certainly hoping that mediation does bear fruit,” she said. “We have dates in February which we certainly expect we will… and while we’re in that process there can be no strike vote. And so we’re doing some contingency planning, which is the only responsible thing to be doing right now.”
As for the possibility of a strike, Mooring said that it depends on the government and the employers’ willingness to get a deal done with the BCTF.
“We are certainly wanting to be at the table, hammering out a deal. It’s what we want. We have very significant recruitment and retention challenges in this province that needs to be addressed. We’re the second-lowest paid teachers nationally – that needs to be addressed. There are a number of things that need to happen in this round of bargaining. It’s about the will to do that, and so that’s where we’re at,” she said.
“We certainly don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be able to get a deal with an education-friendly government, and we’re going to work as hard as we can to make that happen as soon as possible.”