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B.C. teachers’ union says province trying to force class size, composition concessions

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WATCH: BC teachers complain about concessions – Jul 3, 2019

The BC Teachers’ Federation says it’s being asked by the BC Public School Employers Association to concede language around class size and composition.

The claim comes as the two sides remain locked in tough contract negotiations.

The language around class size and composition has been at the core of a fight between teachers and the province for more than 14 years.

READ MORE: ‘Completely untrue’: B.C. teachers’ union president says province seeking contract concessions

“It would be a huge step backwards because it would be about 30 per cent fewer teachers to do this work,” said Matt Westphal with the Surrey Teachers Association.

In 2016, the BCTF famously won its dispute with the former BC Liberal government at the Supreme Court of Canada, with the top court restoring language around class size and composition to what it was in 2002, when the government tore up teachers’ contracts.

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Given the NDP’s stance while in opposition, Westphal say the change of tone caught them off guard.

“They proved in opposition that they knew that the system needs more support, not less. Now they seem to be … trying to make cuts,” he said.

READ MORE: Class size, composition making for ‘rougher than expected’ teachers’ contract negotiations: advocate

“We just didn’t anticipate that we would be facing concessionary bargaining in this round,” said BCTF president Teri Mooring Wednesday.

“Basically class sizes would be larger all around the province. And this would be sort of worse class size language than almost any district has currently.”

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Education Minister Rob Fleming declined an on-camera interview, but provided a written statement to Global News.

“I am pleased the parties are working with a mediator, and I understand that the mediator has requested a media blackout so that they can focus on the process and on getting a deal,” said Fleming.

“We want to respect the mediator’s request.”

A negotiator is currently working with both sides, with talks scheduled throughout July and August.

The BCTF says it’s the first time bargaining has gone into the summer.

However, the teachers union says it is cautiously optimistic a deal will be reached before the first day of school.

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