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School board urges good faith bargaining

School trustees are appealing to the B.C. government to reach an agreement with teachers using "old fashion sincere, meaningful and good faith bargaining."

School Distrist 5's board of trustees has written a letter to Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender, asking for assurance that any impacts of ongoing negotiations between the B.C. Teachers Federation and the province will be funded by government.

The letter comes after B.C. teachers voted last month in favour of job action should they feel it is necessary to further contract negotiations with the B.C. government.

Teachers' job action will come in three phases, the first two of which have been approved by the teachers' union.

In phase one, teachers would refuse meetings and communication with administrators and work to rule on hours. Phase two would see teachers participate in rotating one-day walkouts.

Phase three, a full scale strike, would require a second vote by members to authorize.

In January, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin found for a second time that B.C. legislation imposing contract terms violated teachers' right to collective bargaining.

However, an appeal court decision last month stayed an order that would force B.C.'s school districts to reorganize around teacher contract terms that were scrapped by the government in 2002 and allowed the government to pursue an appeal of the January ruling.

The SD5 board of trustees' letter to government urges that the two parties move away from legal avenues.

"Madam Premier and Mr. Minister, our Board believes that everything about education should be about cooperation and consultation not litigation and legislation. Our hope, like every other District, is that the Province and the BCTF will win an agreement at the bargaining table with some old fashion, sincere, meaningful and good faith bargaining. Another strike mandate returns our schools and personnel to the pressure cooker of tension. The cost to taxpayers in this ongoing battle will not only be measured in dollars but in irreparable harm to human relationships in our schools and in our rural communities."

The letter, signed by board chair Frank Lento, takes a strong position.

"Our Board will not take the complacent path that there will be no impact or disruption to schools and adopt a wait and see approach until all stays and all court avenues are exhausted. Rather, we will choose the prudent and responsible highway of preparing and planning for a negotiated settlement that reflects Griffin's decision or the actual impact with the additional finances required to implement the January 27, 2014 decision."

The letter concludes: "We must be assured by government, our educational gatekeeper, that all impacts will be funded. Our schools and communities need it. Our students deserve it. Our parents and taxpayers expect it."

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