Teachers and their employers were back at the bargaining table this week in the hopes of averting a fall strike.
This week also saw a drop in the salary demand made by teachers from 24 per cent over three years to 19 per cent over three years.
Howe Sound Teachers’ Association president Carl Walker said teachers are hopeful that a settlement can be reached before the June 30 deadline.
"We are still optimistic," he said.
Top of the list of priorities for Sea to Sky corridor teachers is salary said Walker.
"The salary (issue) is huge in our corridor because of the cost of living here and the sky-rocketing housing prices so I think it is a very high priority for our teachers," he said.
He also pointed to the concern by the B.C. Teachers Federation of a looming teacher shortage as up to 1,800 teachers retire each year.
"My understanding is the universities are not graduating enough to replace the retirees," said Walker.
Earlier this month teachers voted 85 per cent in favour of strike action to back their contract demands. If there is no agreement job action could begin in September as students begin to return to school.
Under a plan leaked to a political blog site earlier this month teachers would begin job action during the first school week in September.
The action would include a study session on September 5, with rotating strike action beginning September 11 and a full strike at a future undetermined date.
Through current bargaining the BCTF also hopes to achieve:
• Class size limits and class composition for Grades K through 12 and adult education
• Staffing ratios for specialized teachers and associated professionals that increase services to students and schools
• Improvements in preparation time for all teachers
• Employment equity for aboriginal teachers
• Provisions which define the hours of work, including the work year
• Professional autonomy, teacher control of professional development and improved professional development funding that ensures equity of access to professional development of all teachers
• Improvements in seniority and sick leave.
• Improvements in benefits.
• Improvements for teacher-on-call working conditions including salary, benefits, seniority and hiring rights
• Provision of a teacher-on-call for every teacher absence.
The government and its bargaining arm, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, says the current settlement sought by the teachers would cost about $2 billion annually. It is looking for a maximum wage increase of 10 per cent over four years. Other sectors have settled on four-year contracts as well.
BCPSEA was expected to propose a counter offer this week to the latest offering by the BCTF
It points to other settlements reached with other sectors that range from eight to fourteen per cent as a guideline.
The union must sign a deal by June 30 if it is to get a share of the government public-sector signing bonus, which is expected to be about $3,500 to $3,700 per teacher.
Meanwhile, the Howe Sound School board has announced the two new elementary school principals in Whistler. Sharon Broatch will take over the helm of Myrtle Philip and Gerri Galloway will be the new principal at Spring Creek.
Broatch has over seven years of experience as a vice principal in Burnaby and while at Myrtle Philip she has served as vice principal and administrative assistant.
Galloway was also a vice principal at Myrtle Philip in the past and for the last few years has been at Brackendale Elementary as vice principal.