Monday, August 29, 2011

Arbitrator rules on local bargaining allowed for BC teachers

An arbitrator has answered five questions in relation to what and how BC teachers can bargain at the local and provincial levels under the Public Education Labour Relations Act (PELRA).

BC teachers are seeking to place more items at the local tables, where local teachers' associations can meet with school Trustees to seek solutions that make sense for their districts.

Local bargaining has been resisted at levels by the BC government, the employers association (BCPSEA) and many local school Boards.

The ruling puts to rest the notion, claimed by BCPSEA, that any item with any "cost" attached cannot be negotiated locally. This would include practically everything, as many items may have minor or nominal costs. The ruling instead says that the only items that MUST be provincial are those with a cost and that are part of the four items specifically listed in the legislation - salaries, paid leaves, hours of work and benefits. All other items, even if there is a cost attached, could be negotiated locally if the parties so decide.

Hopefully this ruling will open the door to more fruitful discussions at the provincial table about changing the split of local/provincial issues. This has been one of the roadblocks to reaching an agreement. It has also prevented meaningful discussions at local tables.

In Victoria, as just one example, the local Board has refused to discuss some issues currently designated as "local" because they have claimed there might be some small cost associated with them. The ruling should cause Boards to reevaluate this position and meet with local teacher associations in good faith to reach agreement on the many local issues that have not been discussed in over 18 years.

The arbitrator's decision is available here:

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