Vaughn Palmer Joins Jon McComb to Discuss BCTF Contract Negotiations

CKNW – 7:10 AM – June, 28 2006 Transcript

Jon McComb: Vaughn, the teachers’ negotiations coming down to the wire, at least in terms of that big singing bonus, $3,700 and Jinny Sims not happy.

Vaughn Palmer: Jinny Sims not happy, which I suppose not a new story, but the latest thing that has the teachers unhappy are these government ads, and I noticed NW is running them, Jon. So, you’re part of the problem. They’re in the Sun today, or yesterday, and the other papers are carrying them.

The government is running a little ad campaign related to the teachers’ talks as they come down to the wire. Now, the teachers have been advertising for weeks, so I don’t know what the unfairness is here.

The other thing is, take a look at the ads again – they’re not really aimed at teachers. They talk about what teachers would get if they agree to a settlement. But I think the ads are really aimed at the public and at the other public sector unions, to let them know how much money teachers will be walking away from if they don’t settle by Friday night, and that’s why the bonus is highlighted.

Having said that, Jon, I think we should look at the one happy note on all of this; they’re still talking, and that’s encouraging. They were far apart. When the two sides are this far apart, sometimes there’s not much to talk about.

Clearly, they’re making progress. I gather, they are under a news blackout, but the few rumblings that have come out is they’re making progress but they’re still a fair distance apart on wages. The published gap is almost double. As you know, the teachers are asking for twice as much money as the government’s offering in terms of an increase.

So, I guess since, what, two days left and a bit, until midnight Friday. Some creativity is called for here. We probably want to look to Irene Holden; she’s the Vince Ready associate who has been acting as a facilitator in these talks.

Vince himself and Irene have a reputation for finding a way through these things, and maybe they’ve got some brilliant ideas. But, it’s not hopeless, and I guess at this point we should be happy that it’s not hopeless.

Jon McComb: Is, if the $3,700 bonus date passes, and that is Friday, midnight, if that bonus goes away, how much does that complicate then, these negotiations? The teachers say they’ll continue to go see it throughout the summer, but how more complicated?

Vaughn Palmer: Yeah, they’ll continue to negotiate it throughout the summer. The offer, the government’s final position isn’t going to change. You know, the only thing that’s going to change after midnight on Friday Jon, is the bonus. It won’t be there.

The government is not going to offer them more money as a compensation for the fact that they’re going to get, they’re not going to get the bonus. So, I don’t see how, it doesn’t get any easier. And I think that’s why every public sector union except this one has realized that the choice is between an okay deal plus the bonus, or an okay deal. Now, I know teachers don’t like what they’re being offered.

The other thing I think we have to say is that there’s probably one more move left on the government’s side. The government is offering 10%. I don’t think that’s their final position. I think they’re willing to go a little bit higher. But the teachers are going to have to come down a lot to meet them, and that’s the problem. And when I say creativity, I don’t know what the answer is, but maybe it’s something on the length of the contract.

As you know, the government wants four, the teachers are saying three, or maybe there’s another number in there, or maybe, I don’t know. Maybe it’s something else around class sizes or a commitment that wouldn’t be in the contract.

As I said, the fact that they’re still talking tells me there’s still hope here. It’s not out of the question there will be a settlement. But, you know, it’s hard to be optimistic.