After the controversy and bitterness that marred the last set of teacher contract talks in B.C., it's a relief to hear new negotiations are going amicably so far.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation and B.C. Public School Employers Association have started talking about getting a new contract in place by June, when the current short-term deal, ratified with great bitterness, expires.
It's early in the talks. Formal proposals haven't been exchanged, but the tone is different this time around.
The two sides negotiated a framework for negotiations, which includes measures designed to keep the talks moving forward and to prevent the rancour of previous negotiations.
A BCTF spokesman told Vancouver's CKNW radio station: "So far, so good. It's been calm. We are really happy with the framework that we worked out with BCPSEA. It shows what you can do when government isn't interfering."
It's not clear whether the government's trial balloon suggesting a
10-year legislated teachers' contract is helping to push these talks along or whether it could derail them.
While the idea of 10 years of labour peace appeals to many people, teachers unions have looked at the details and decided they don't like what they see. Many of their bargaining and classroom rights would be stripped away.
Perhaps the B.C. Teachers' Federation is more eager to negotiate this time to avoid the government bringing in that legislation. On the other hand, the bitter teachers-vs.-government battles of the past would surely escalate if the 10-year plan became the basis of new legislation.
Since it's so-far, so-good with the negotiations underway, the best approach the government can take right now is a hands-off one.
Let the professionals in the two bargaining groups do their job. Their goal is to reach a deal by the end of the school year.
Turning these talks into another
political football would be the worst move the government could make
- City Editor Pat Bulmer