On December 16, 2004, the BC Government released the final report of Mr. Don Wright, who was appointed under section 5 of the Education Services Collective Agreement Act to make recommendations for teacher collective bargaining in British Columbia. Mr. Wright had released an initial report in November 13, 2003, containing recommendations for the terms of reference for the report.
Mr. Wright’s final report recommends that a two-tier bargaining approach be continued, with major cost items continuing to be negotiated at the provincial table.
The report also recommends the implementation of a collective bargaining process that would set out specific deadlines for the conclusion of a negotiated agreement, with a collective agreement being imposed through a final offer selection process in the event that the parties are unable to agree by a specific date.
The proposed bargaining process set out in the report would provide for a public report on outstanding issues, followed by mediation, a “default” collective agreement concluded through final offer selection, and one last opportunity for the parties to negotiate an alternative to the final offer selection decision. In the event that no negotiated agreement is reached by the last deadline in the process, the “default” collective agreement arrived at through final offer selection would be imposed through legislation.
The final report sets out twelve recommendations, as follows:
- British Columbia should maintain a two-tier bargaining approach where the major cost items continue to be negotiated at the provincial table.
- The split of issues between the provincial and local tables should be revisited, and a wider range of issues – ones that are primarily “relational” – should be negotiated at the local level. Local agreements about local issues should not be subject to ratification by the provincial table.
- The bargaining agent for the employers should continue to be accountable to both the provincial government and school boards.
- The process and accountability for the development of the employers’ mandate for negotiations through BCPSEA should be confirmed.
- The authority of school boards and local teacher associations to negotiate agreements on local matters should be established as a delegated authority from the BCPSEA and the BCTF respectively. The Public Education Labour Relations Act should be amended accordingly, if necessary.
- The provincial government should clarify, as a matter of public policy, what level of disruption, if any, in the K-12 system it believes is in the public interest in the context of an impasse at the collective bargaining table.
- If the right to strike practically does not exist, teachers must have an alternative mechanism to provide them with effective voice.
- A well-defined process for collective bargaining should be established. This process would have prescribed steps and consequences if a collective agreement has not been reached particular dates. The process would establish a role for an independent Commissioner to report to the public, mediate between the parties and arbitrate a settlement if necessary.
- Policy discussions, parallel to the collective bargaining table, be established to seek agreement on cost effective approaches to improving working and learning conditions in British Columbia’s public schools.
These discussions should be facilitated by an individual acceptable to both sides. The facilitator would issue a report by June 30, 2006, which:
- i. Evaluates the efficacy of the policy discussion approach in dealing with teachers’ working conditions;
ii. Reports on whether both sides participated in the discussions in “good faith”, trying to use the discussions for the intended purposes; and
iii. In light of i. and ii., recommends what option(s) to deal with working and learning conditions should be pursued on an ongoing basis.
- An Industrial Inquiry Commissioner be appointed to supervise the establishment of a first “real” provincial agreement. The Commissioner’s mandate would be to establish a “notional provincial agreement” by March 31, 2006.
Teachers would be protected from any reduction in pay levels and any unfair change in other benefits.
This notional provincial agreement would be actualized when budgetary resources become available.
- The expiry date of local agreements be established either one year earlier or one year later, whichever is more practical in the circumstances, than the provincial agreement. Thereafter, the parties should endeavour to keep the expiry date staggered in this way.
- Local school boards look at the possibility of cooperating on a regional basis, as some of them already do with respect to CUPE negotiations, in terms of efficiently developing the capacity for negotiations about local matters.