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Updated: BCPSEA says 10-year teachers' deal 'difficult to pull off'

Unlike the BC Teachers' Federation, the BC Public School Employers Association wasn't shocked by the letter it received from Deputy Education Minister James Gorman reiterating government's mandate for a 10-year teachers' contract.

"We knew that there was a chance that the mandate wold change after the election regardless of what party was elected, and this is in relations to the platform that the BC Liberals had released prior to the election," said Silas White, vice chair of the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) and trustee representative at the bargaining table.

But that being said, White says a 10-year deal by June 30 would be hard.*

"That'd be very difficult for us to pull off that kind of deal, I think. The policy document ("Working Together For Students: A Framework For Long Term Stability In Education," released in January), which is connected to the 10 year deal, it doesn't seem to be soildly associated with 10 years, so there might be some flexability there," he said, adding a contract could be 10 years with the ability to renegotiate after five or something similar.

"But it's all just speculation at this point until we're able to have that meeting with the minister and work out a new bargaining direction with our board, and with boards across the province."

White had only seen the BCTF copy of the letter sent today, although he says his staff assures him the letters are the same. However unlike the BCTF letter, which advises current President Susan Lambert that the BC Liberals' platform "has the potential to significantly affect the present round of collective bargaining," the letter to BCPSEA, seen here, says "you should expect to receive a letter rescinding the previous bargaining direction letter and replacing it with one more reflective of the newly elected government’s priorities."*

The vice-chair predicts the meeting with the new education minister mentioned in the letter won't happen until sometime in June. But he says BCPSEA is more than willing to meet with Premier Christy Clark beforehand to discuss how she plans to change the bargaining mandate.

In any case bargaining, which is scheduled to resume on May 28, has been going well, and White hopes the new mandate won't change that.

"We've actually had an extremely positive bargaining experience with the BCTF this round. Really we're hopeful that the new mandate will include some opportunities for fulfilling some of the requests that the BCTF has and included some support through resources, and some creativity in order to reach a deal. Because I certainly think on the relationship side of things, we're in a very good place and we wouldn't want to see that compromised."

*Updated 5:40 P.m. May 26, 2013

Katie Hyslop reports on education and youth issues for The Tyee Solutions Society. Follow her on Twitter.

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