On November 13, 2003, the BC Government released the report of Mr. Don Wright which sets out recommendations for the terms of reference for a Commission to improve teacher collective bargaining in British Columbia. The establishment of such a Commission is provided for in Section 5of the Education Services Collective Agreement Act, which was enacted in January 2002.
The Wright Report concludes that all parties are dissatisfied with the history of teacher collective bargaining in the Province. The Report recommends in particular that the Commission should consider the need for alignment between any proposed bargaining structure and accountability for funding in the K-12 education sector.
Mr. Wright recommends that the Government appoint one individual to the Commission, following consultation with the B.C. School Trustees’ Association, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association. He anticipates that the Commission could complete its work by the Fall of 2004 and would be followed by consultation with Government about options proposed by the Commission. The Report contemplates that legislation would ultimately be enacted establishing new bargaining structures.
The Report further recommends that the Minister consult with the same stakeholders on “what to do in the context of the June 2004 expiry of the current agreement and the scheduled upcoming bargaining”. This recommendation arises from the Report’s conclusion that it is extremely unlikely a new collective agreement can be reached without changes to the current bargaining structure.
The recommended Terms of Reference for the Commission require an enquiry into the current structure of teacher collective bargaining in British Columbia and a review of teacher collective bargaining in other jurisdictions. The different options for teacher collective bargaining would then be summarized with reference to the following factors:
- the geographic scope of the bargaining agents (whether provincial, regional or local);
- governance of the employer bargaining agent (i.e., identification of those persons at the bargaining table and responsibility for setting the bargaining mandate);
- identification of any bargaining tiers (i.e., whether there would be bargaining at provincial, regional and/or local levels);
- how financing and accountability are to be aligned with the proposed employer bargaining agent;
how achievement of a negotiated collective agreement would be facilitated in the proposed bargaining model;
- procedures to be followed in the event that a negotiated collective agreement is not obtained, including mediation and/or objective reporting of issues to the public;
- whether there would be constraints on the right to strike or lockout, and whether there would be alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in place as an alternative to strikes or lockouts.
The Report requires that the Commission balance the following factors when proposing options for the structure of teacher collective bargaining:
- the public’s interest in minimizing disruptions in the provision of educational programs to students;
the right of employees to be fairly compensated for their services;
- the value of maintaining and enhancing a positive atmosphere at all levels of the school system (i.e., classroom, school, school district and provincial);
- the value of a well-functioning collective bargaining system with appropriate incentives and pressures to encourage settlements at the bargaining table;
- the value of effective, efficient and expeditious collective bargaining and dispute settlement;
- the views of school boards, the BCTF, the employers’ association, the Provincial Government and other key stakeholders in the public education system;
- any other factors that the commission considers relevant or that the Minister may direct.
Labour Minister Graham Bruce has stated that he will be studying the Wright Report and seeking further feedback from employers, school trustees, and the BCTF prior to finalizing terms of reference for the Commission..
(click here for full text of the Wright Report)