By Robert Mangelsdorf
B.C. Education Minister George Abbott announced Thursday that he intends to introduce legislation next week to end the ongoing teacher job action, and impose a contract.
The decision comes after the release of a report by assistant deputy minister for industrial relations Trevor Hughes stating a negotiated settlement between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the government’s bargaining agent, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association would be unlikely.
B.C. Liberal house leader Rich Coleman said the legislation could be presented as early as mid-week, but the debate on the provincial budget would take precedence until next Thursday unless there is an emergency situation.
The BCTF had proposed a three-year contract that would see teachers given a 15 per cent increase over that span. BCTF estimates the contract will cost an extra $300 million per year, however BCPSEA pegs that number at upwards of $500 million in the first year alone.
Abbott wouldn’t give specifics about the terms of the teacher contract he plans to impose, but said it would conform to the Liberal government’s net-zero mandate of no wage increases for public sector employees.
“We have three-quarters of public employees, with 100-plus contracts negotiated with the net zero mandate,” Abbott said. “We have to proceed on that basis.”
Abbott said he was disappointed and saddened to impose the contract, but said he felt he had no other option.
“Teachers will be upset, but in some cases they will be relieved,” he said. “The union leadership will take a dim view of it, but I will not let a dispute among adults affect kids.”
Teachers across the province have been doing essential service only since September, refusing to meet with school administration or complete report cards. Teachers have been without a contract since June 2011.