UPDATE: Government proposes $1200 teacher bonus; BCTF says no deal

WATCH (above): The provincial government is threatening to cut teacher’s wages by five percent if strike action continues. Rumina Daya has the details.

The provincial government is offering all teachers a $1,200 bonus if a new collective bargaining agreement is reached with the BC Teachers’ Federation before the end of the school year.

However, they’re also threatening to roll back wages by five per cent, going up to as much as 10 per cent, if job action doesn’t end.

“It’s a pretty significant difference between settling before the end of June and going into the summer without a deal, and we’re hoping the significant difference will be incentive to settle,” said BC Public School Employers’ Association Chief Negotiator Peter Cameron, who said the deal was presented to the BCTF earlier today.

“The purpose isn’t to provoke a further strike, it’s to provoke a settlement.”

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BCTF president Jim Iker doesn’t agree.

“The term came down from six years to 10 years to something more realistic,” Iker said at a press conference this afternoon in response to the government’s offer. “But it’d make more sense to put [the signing bonus] on the salary grids. That would put the two sides closer together.”

Cameron estimated that the bonus would cost $39.6 million for the government. He also said that the government wouldn’t need to go to the Labour Relations Board to enact the rollback.

The proposal by the government comes a day after the government announced they were stepping away from their 10-year proposal for teachers, instead offering six-year proposal.

Their wage offer is a 6.5 per cent raise over six years, while the BCTF is proposing around 15.9 per cent over four years.

It’s a number the government is adamant needs to be lowered.

“Who has settled for anything like that?” asked Cameron. “I’m wondering why our position is described as so fixed, when one party is seeking several times more money than any other group.”

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Cameron made allusion to 47,000 health care workers reaching a tentative deal yesterday that would see a 5.5 per cent pay increase over five years.

“We need to see the [BCTF] move forward to something within the realm of what’s possible.”

Iker said no deal will be struck until the government addresses issues around class size, compensation and staff levels with specialized teachers.

“[The government] continues to refuse to do anything about class size, composition and specialized teachers,” Iker said. “If we’re going to see a deal it must include guaranteed staffing levels with special teachers in the collective agreement.”

As far as the BCTF is concerned, they want to negotiate a settlement that “respects what teachers do and gives students better support including one-on-one time.”

Along with class size and staffing levels, Iker said they’ve only been presented with unfair and unreasonable salary offers, something he’d like to see change.

If they’re serious about labour peace..,” Iker said. “It’s time for the government to put something fair on the table.”

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Even though it appears there’s a giant chasm between the sides reaching a deal by the end of the school year, Iker said he remains hopeful.

The next meetings scheduled are at the end of next week.