By: Korie Marshall

Teachers voted 86 per cent in favor of accepting an agreement reached with the province on Thursday, Sept. 18th. Teachers and students had their first day of the school year on Monday in the Robson Valley.

After the vote, Education Minister Peter Fassbender released a statement saying thanks and congratulations to BC teachers.

“This long-term agreement is an historic opportunity to work together for students,” Fassbender said.

The BC Teachers’ Federation website extends a thank you to “everyone who stood with us for public education.” It also says “Let’s keep up the call for more education funding to meet kids’ needs,” and offers contact information for Mayors and City Councillors, MLA’s and school trustees.

The tentative agreement between the BCTF and the BC Public School Employers Association was announced in the early hours of Tuesday, Sept. 16th.

“We all know this deal isn’t perfect, but it provides some gains for teachers, protects our Charter Rights, and increases support for students,” said BCTF President Jim Iker in a statement on their website. “Through the hard work of our teachers, British Columbians now fully understand the real issues facing our public education system.”

The week before this agreement was reached, the BCTF had been calling for the government to remove the E80 clause from their offer and agree to binding arbitration. Teachers voted 99.4 per cent in favor of ending the strike if the province agreed, but Fassbender maintained that binding arbitration would lead to unacceptable tax increases. He maintained that the only solution would be through negotiation.

The teachers maintained that the E80 clause would have meant bargaining away their charter rights, as it would negate any possible future awards from the court over contract language removed in 2002. The Courts have twice ruled that the language around class size and composition must be put back in the contract. The government got a stay from the BC Supreme Court in the spring, while it appealed the ruling. The appeal is set to be heard in the BC Court of Appeal on October 14-16th.