Contract talks facing an F

With the first school bell slated to ring in a few days, B.C.’s education minister is not confident there will be a resolution any time soon

With the first school bell slated to ring in a few days, B.C.’s education minister is not confident there will be a resolution any time soon to the ongoing contract dispute between the province and its public-school teachers.

“We have not seen much progress,” George Abbott said in a media conference call this week.

“But, we still continue to hope that they will reach an agreement.”

The contract for B.C.’s 41,000 teachers expired in April.

In June, teachers voted 90 per cent in favour of job action.

Since Aug. 23, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has been involved in negotiations with provincial representatives.

Abbott said the two sides are still nowhere near a resolution.

“If there’s cause for optimism, it has not been shared with me at this point,” he said.

The BCTF has filed 72-hour strike notice, meaning its job action will begin on Sept. 6 – but it won’t be a strike.

Instead, it’s expected teachers will continue to teach as usual, but not perform administrative duties like taking part in staff meetings and tabulating attendance figures.

The BCTF has said the job action could turn into a strike if the provincial government legislates an end to the work-to-rule campaign.

Teachers provide an essential service, which allows the government to force them to return to work through legislation.

Abbott did not rule out this possibility.

Locally, the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association has scheduled a meeting for Sept. 6 to let area teachers know what the job action will entail.

All-day K starts

Abbott said he’s excited about the launch of full all-day kindergarten in B.C.

“This year, we will have 37,000 full-day kindergarten students in B.C.,” he said.

“It’s been a big undertaking for the ministry.”

All-day kindergarten was launched in 2009 at a cost of more than $420-million.

The 2011-2012 school year marks the first time it will be fully operational across the province.

Abbott called it “a play-based approach” to education.

“This is kids exploring, learning, socializing,” he said.

– by Tim Petruk – Kamloops This Week