Possible end to strike, fines for BC teachers

Friday, October 21, 2005

Jinny Sims — President of the BCTF

British Columbia, Canada — The BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and the government have both accepted mediator Vince Ready's recommendations.

Premier Gordan Campbell announced in a news conference today that he will accept the plan unconditionally.

However, Jinny Sims (head of the BCTF) has said that she will only accept the proposal if the government provides firm class-size numbers and support for special-needs students. "We need for our students a guarantee in writing that this government will make changes to the School Act to put firm class-size numbers" Sims also said, "And in the School Act, they will address class composition. And that means support for special needs kids".

Sims will recommend to her union to accept the proposal if these conditions are met.

Key points of the proposal to which both sides have agreed include:

  • Government spends $40 million to "harmonize" teachers salaries across BC
  • Another $20 million is spent on top of current funding to reduce class-size and help special-need students. This brings that funding up to $120 million.
  • The government consults with the BCTF about how class-size reduction should take place.
  • The government puts $40 million (one-time) into the unions long-term disability fund.
  • The government raises pay for substitute teachers to $120 a day.

"I believe the recommendations provide a fair basis for resolution of the present dispute, especially in the context of the additional opportunities for the BCTF to address these and other issues in the next few months," Ready's report said.

If the union votes this weekend, classes could be in this Monday.

With a cost

The BCTF Logo

Justice Brenda Brown of the British Columbia Supreme Court made an order today that the BCTF must pay $500,000 for being in contempt of court. She noted that the fine would have been "significantly larger", were it not for the fact that the two sides were working toward an agreement to quickly end the labour disruption. The amount was based on the union's membership numbers and assets ($15 million).

Legal commentators noted that this is the largest penalty ever ordered by a Canadian court following a finding of contempt. A lawyer for the employer noted that he was satisfied with the size of the fine. Still, it's not over yet. The court has the right to order further penalties if the union and its members continue their illegal job action. As well, an independent prosecutor appointed by the Attorney General's office is reviewing the case to determine whether charges of criminal contempt are appropriate.