Teachers See Guaranteed Learning Conditions As Top Priority

As students and teachers head back to school today, there is enthusiasm in the classroom and unity of purpose at the bargaining table.

“There can be no settlement without guaranteed improvements to our students’ learning conditions,” said Jinny Sims, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation. “We are extremely confident that our objectives reflect the sincere aspirations of teachers to restore measures that uphold our rights and guarantee a high quality of services to all students.”

A recent study shows that B.C. teachers are overwhelmingly united behind three key goals of improved learning conditions, restored bargaining rights, and a fair salary increase, but learning conditions are the top priority. (See backgrounder with detailed data attached.)

Problems of increased class size, more complex class composition without adequate support for students with special needs, and lack of specialist teachers all arose as a result of the government’s decision in 2002 to strip guarantees from the teachers’ collective agreement.

“As a result, we’ve lost almost one-quarter of our teacher-librarians,” Sims said. “We’ve lost 2,600 teaching positions, only 700 of which can be attributed to declining enrolment. Now the ministry says school districts are hiring 630 more teachers this fall. If that’s accurate, it still restores less than one-third of the number of teaching positions cut beyond declining enrolment.”

Sims urged the new government to demonstrate a less confrontational attitude towards teachers. “We are appealing to the premier and the minister of education to engage in a dialogue with us to find solutions, not create needless instability in schools,” Sims said.

BCTF Backgrounder: Member survey confirms near-unanimous commitment to bargaining goals
In June 2005, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation commissioned Mustel Group Research to conduct a survey of 500 teachers. “Such a large sample size gives very reliable data in which we can have a high degree of confidence,” noted BCTF President Jinny Sims. Three key questions researchers asked:

How important is it to have a collective agreement that protects learning conditions like class size and the integration of students with special needs?

89% very important
9% somewhat important
1% not very
1% not at all
A total of 98% of teachers believe it’s important to have learning conditions in the collective agreement.

How important is it to have our bargaining rights restored?

83% very
13% somewhat
3% not very
1% not at all
A total of 96% said it’s important to have teachers’ bargaining rights restored.

How important is it to negotiate a salary increase?

55% very
37% somewhat
7% not very
1% not at all
A total of 90% said that it’s important to negotiate a salary increase.

“Clearly, there is near-unanimous support among teachers for the goals set by our 2005 AGM,” Sims said. “We hope that the provincial government will demonstrate a new willingness to talk, listen, and seek solutions to avoid any disruption in our schools.”