SURREY (NEWS 1130) – A parent group in Surrey says the community is so different from other school districts in British Columbia it should have the right to negotiate contracts separately, as talks between government and educators stall.
With seemingly little progress between government negotiators and the teachers’ union on a new deal, Dean McGee with the Surrey District Parents Advisory Council is suggesting larger districts should have the right to bargain individually.
Teachers have returned to work this week without a contract, despite the help of a mediator who spent 13 days this summer at the bargaining table. A six-year agreement expired in June, followed by five days of talks in July.
McGee says with all the hold ups, his district should have the right to negotiate with teachers directly and find more customized solutions.
“Surrey’s situation is different from everybody else. Surrey is the black swan. We’re a lot different and we’re stuck with doing everything the same as everybody else,” he says. “The province-wide bargaining is far from the boots on the ground here, in Surrey.”
But Education Minster Rob Fleming appears to have little appetite for that option. The province took over negotiations from districts in 1993, and Fleming doesn’t feel it would make sense to go back.
“Well, we were there 25 years ago and it didn’t work very well. We’ve had centralized provincial bargaining with local bargaining tables as well for local issues and that’s the direction we’ve gone. I don’t think there’s any turning back,” he says. “Locally controlled education – it hasn’t worked well in the United States. We took a direction, which I think was the right one, away from that.”
Negotiations are scheduled to resume on Sept. 23.
With files from the Canadian Press.