Vaughn Palmer joins Philip Till to discuss BCTF negotiations

Philip Till, CKNW, 7:10 AM, May 23, 2006

Philip Till: The teachers have been offered just over 8% over four years with a signing bonus of about $3,700. The Teachers’ Union come back and says no, that’s insulting. But, for the equally important school staffers who are the support staff, about 25,000 of them, that seems like a pretty good deal. So, why is one good for the goose and not for the gander, Vaughn?

Vaughn Palmer: The teachers inhabit a different universe from the rest of us, Philip. I think even from the other unions in the public sector – CUPE, Canadian Union of Public Employees, School support staff, they’re not a pushover. They announced this deal on the weekend and it comes with an asterisk, Philip. CUPE locals actually bargain at the district level. What they’ve done here is try to get a framework to cover the whole province and then tell their local unions to go ahead and bargain your local issues.

Still, it looks like a pretty good deal and it’s right there with a lot of the other public sector settlements. As you said, it’s 8.2% compounded over four years. So, 2% a year. The bonus for a full-time member of CUPE is $3,700, and there’s extra money in there for some other stuff. The union website lists all this, but I made it to be about $20 million over the four years for things like upgrades for the skilled trades; additional pay for some classifications, training, apprenticeship, long-term disability. So, a good settlement, given what these unions have been getting over the last few years. Teachers, they’re still asking 26% over three years.

Phillip Till: Three times as much.

Vaughn Palmer: Three times as much, and a fair-costing of the benefits that they’re asking for. And the only costing we’ve gotten is from the government side. The union hasn’t challenged any of this. 24%, again, over the three years. So, it just tops the scales at just a little over 50% over three years – a different universe, as I said Philip. And I haven’t heard the Teachers’ Union make the case that they deserve three times as much as the clerical staff.

Philip Till: Question then…

Vaughn Palmer: Yes?

Philip Till: Where do we go from here? Are we just heading up to the brick wall – we’re back to mediators.

Vaughn Palmer: Okay, yeah we get a report on June 1st from the mediator, Irene Holden. She’s an associate of Vince Ready; she’s monitoring the talks. Well, first of all they go back to the table tomorrow and maybe they’ll work something out. If they don’t, by June 1 we get the report from the mediator. She says where they agree and where they don’t agree and then there’s still a month left for the parties to go to the government or go to Vince Ready and say look, will you recommend a settlement here?

So, there’s still a few reels to go in this movie, and we may still get a deal. Everybody else in the public sector seems to be able to bargain this year, so maybe the teachers can as well.