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George Abbott addresses BCTF, asks for 'peace'

For the first time since 2001, a BC minister of education has attended the AGM of the provincial body that represents the province's teachers. On Tuesday morning, March 22,  Minister George Abbott spoke to 700 delegates at the Victoria convention of the BC Federation of Teachers.

"I'm told that minister of education sightings are relatively rare at your gatherings, rather like a Sasquatch in Stanley Park," said Abbott. "We need to find a way to make peace."

"George asked to speak, and we welcomed him," BCTF first vice president Jim Iker told The Tyee. "He said he wanted to listen to our concerns, and we are glad to hear that. We hope for a meeting with the minister soon, and for productive bargaining."

One observer noted a new tone in Abbott's presentation.

"A new area of focus for Abbott, not before heard from government, was improving teacher satisfaction. Abbott assured the audience that while improving student outcomes was a priority, improving 'teacher satisfaction' in the workplace should also be an area of attention," wrote Paul Hillsdon, a Lower Mainland-based blogger.

Iker said that although the BCTF hoped for a new relationship with the minister, he felt no big sense of increased optimism about bargaining prospects.

"After all, the minister has been in government while we experienced the loss of nearly 3,000 positions in BC education, as class sizes have gone up and support staff have been lost. We're concerned about protecting quality education and reversing the trend of chronic under funding we have seen in the past decade," he said.

"We are under no illusions, but we hope we can make headway for the children of BC."      

Iker was one of three table officers were elected by acclamation for one-year terms on Tuesday. The others were Susan Lambert as president and Glen Hansman, a Vancouver primary school teacher, as second vice president. Four members at large were elected for two year terms, Teri Mooring of Quesnel, David Komljenovic of Kamloops, Christine Stewart of Vancouver and Paul Steer of Delta. Joanna Larson of Prince Rupert was elected to serve a one year term as member at large.

Tom Sandborn covers labour and health policy beats for The Tyee.

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