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BCTF tables salary demands, drops other proposals

The BC Teachers' Federation took one step forward, two steps back today when they finally announced their salary demands for contract negotiations, while dropping or reducing other proposals from their bargaining package.

"We know how to compromise, we know how to bargain, we know how to negotiate. It means you reach a mutually acceptable compromise. That means both sides have to move," Susan Lambert, president of the teachers' union, told a press conference earlier this afternoon.

"We're taking that initiative today, and what we hope is that this will stir government to doing the same."

The new proposal, which the union hopes to present to their employer, the BC Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA), and the ministry of education at the bargaining table later today, is for three years and includes a wage increase of three per cent in the first year, which the union says is equal to the cost of living allowance, and six per cent in the second and third year.

Lambert estimates this will cost $300 million per year, less than what the union claims government has taken from education annually after the introduction of Bills 27 and 28 in 2002.

"Net zero amounts to a pay cut, while a cost of living adjustment is essentially a wage freeze, and we're willing to accept a wage freeze in year one of this collective agreement," Lambert says.

Other changes made to the Teachers' Federation (BCTF) package include dropping paid professional development leave, an early retirement incentive program, a requirement that teachers on call be paid a guaranteed minimum wage, leave for third-party care, and discretionary leave from six days to one day only.

Bereavement leave will also be changed as Lambert says both sides will negotiate to come up with a mutually acceptable definition.

But the next move has to come from government, says the union head.

"We are calling on (Education) Minister Abbott to give BCPSEA a new mandate to reach a fair settlement and to stop speculating about imposing a legislated contract," says Lambert.

"We need to establish a relationship that's built on trust and mutual respect."

The Tyee has put in calls to the ministry of education and BCPSEA; Minister Abbott will respond in a teleconference with reporters scheduled for later this afternoon, and we will update with any new information.*

*Updated at 2:45 p.m.

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