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Briefly: December 02, 2011

Teachers win decision BC teachers are satisfied with BC Labour Relations Board’s (LRB) rejection of an application by BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) to have report cards declared an essential service.

Teachers win decision

BC teachers are satisfied with BC Labour Relations Board’s (LRB) rejection of an application by BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) to have report cards declared an essential service.

The board also rejected BCPSEA’s request for teachers to reimburse school districts 15 per cent of their total gross salaries and benefits to reflect the duties they are not performing under the job action.

“They are not performing certain non-essential duties,” read the decision, “but there is no assertion teachers are working only 85 per cent of their scheduled time while receiving 100 per cent of pay. Rather, the assertion is they are working their regular hours teaching but not performing non-essential duties.”

BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) has maintained throughout the job action that report cards are not an essential service and that parents are still well informed on their child’s progress. LRB agreed.

“It is apparent that BCTF members are providing a range of feedback to students and parents,” read the decision. “Accordingly, I find there is no basis for concluding that teachers are refusing to inform parents by other methods as to the progress of their children.”

Teachers have been involved in job action since the beginning of the school year as a reaction to ongoing negotiations over contract renewal. Teachers seek a “fair increase to wages and benefits for teachers,” according to a BCTF press release. This amounts to $2.1 billion in compensation improvements according to BCPSEA, a figure that BCTF disputes.

“Now the LRB has sent a strong message to trustees,” said BCTF president Susan Lambert in a press release. “Instead of attempting to put more pressure on teachers, they should be pressuring government to send BCPSEA back to the table with a new mandate to negotiate a collective agreement that respects teachers and meets the needs of students.”

In unrelated negotiations over classroom size and composition regarding a 2002 bill that the BC Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in April, BCTF reports the government is no longer willing to negotiate. In a press release BCTF stated that government representatives informed the organization they will not respond to any demands that include “guarantees on class size and composition.”

The court’s decision gave the government one year to make changes accordingly.

ICBC rate hike

Insurance rates from ICBC may be going up after poor third quarter results from the Crown corporation.

President and CEO Jon Schubert released a letter on Tuesday, November 29 announcing that, for the first time in four years, the corporation intends to make an application to the BC Utilities Commission for a “basic insurance rate increase.” He wrote that the increase will likely result in an average rise in auto insurance of less than $30, but that individual factors will ultimately determine a person’s final rate.

Third quarter results from the company show a net income of $52 million for the first nine months of 2011, which is well below the $331 in net income for the same period the year before.

Included in the results is a loss of $38 million in investment income compared to last year and a predicted $90 million less by year-end compared to 2010. Claims costs have risen $200 million, attributed primarily to an increase in bodily injury costs, which are up $350 million from five years ago to approximately $1.7 billion.

“Approximately 88 cents of every premium dollar we’ve collected this year has gone straight back out to compensate victims of accidents and to repair damaged vehicles and property,” wrote Schubert. “This is not sustainable.”

The worldwide economic and capital market conditions are being blamed for the drop in investment income. The company’s premium income was the same for the first nine months of 2010 and 2011, despite the increase in bodily injury costs and the diminished investment income.

Fuel surcharges

BC Ferries will raise its fuel surcharge on some routes starting December 12 to reflect the rising cost of marine diesel fuel.

While the increase will not affect either the Westview to Little River or the Saltery Bay to Earls Cove routes, a surcharge of 2.5 per cent will be added to the Langdale to Horseshoe Bay route price.

The fuel surcharge on all minor routes will remain at 5 per cent. Fuel charges on the three major routes connecting the Lower Mainland with Vancouver Island will rise from 2.5 per cent to 5 per cent.

BC Ferries’ annual fuel cost was $45.9 million in 2003. While the company says it has reduced its fuel consumption by approximately 5 per cent since then, BC Ferries projects its 2011/2012 fuel costs could be over $120 million.