The latest offer by the B.C. Teachers' Federation to settle its strike has moved the union farther from the "zone of settlement" established by other public sector unions, Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Thursday.
With a strike underway that could run until the end of the school year, Fassbender said neither mediation nor a legislated settlement is being considered.
Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, said the latest union proposal would bring the compensation increase for teachers from 12.5% over five years to 14.5%. On wages and benefits alone, Cameron said that is more than twice the increase other unions, including school support staff employees, have accepted.
The BCTF added to its proposal of an 8% wage increase over five years this week with a proposed $225 million fund paid out over five years to settle thousands of grievances filed over the past decade. Those grievances sought to return class size caps and specialist teacher levels that were removed from the contract by legislation, and were ordered restored by a B.C. Supreme Court decision that is now under appeal.
The union wants a second $225 million annual fund to fund ongoing class size and special needs support.
"It is well into the $2 billion range," Fassbender said of the union proposal. "It's unaffordable for taxpayers."
BCTF president Jim Iker said the union's proposal is fair in light of the latest court decision.
"Evidence from the government's own officials presented in B.C. Supreme Court shows the government has stripped $275 million per year from B.C.'s public education system," Iker said.
Fassbender said that misrepresents the situation, because the government has put an extra $1 billion a year into the education system since taking class size and compensation out of the teacher contract in 2002.
It has been spent in different ways, such as learning assistants who are not teachers, full-day kindergarten and a $75 million annual "learning improvement fund" to address class size and special needs support, Fassbender said.