UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The British Columbia Teachers' Federation and the arbitration process North, Roy Archibald


In British Columbia, teachers and school trustees have been permitted to negotiate and arbitrate teachers’ salaries since 1919. Amendments to the school law in 1933 and 1937 introduced demandable adjudication of tenure disputes and demandable arbitration of salaries. Since 1958, conciliation and arbitration have been compulsory. The provincial government has consistently held that school boards are teachers' employers, and maintenance of local board autonomy has been the expressed desire of government, teachers, and trustees. The investigation, which depended chiefly upon articles in periodicals, supplemented by interviews, Inquired into the effects of arbitration upon some of the parties involved in public education in B.C. Emphasis was placed on examining changes in teachers’ economic status and in the organization and methods of operation of the British Columbia Teachers' Federation. Consideration was also given to related changes in the British Columbia School Trustees' Association and to changes in government policy. Arbitration of salary disputes with trustees was the choice of B.C. teachers in preference to striking when negotiated settlements could not be reached. However, teachers have been narrowly limited by the bargaining and arbitration provisions of the Public Schools Acts when compared with the scope permitted employees under B.C.'s labour laws. The evidence was not available by which to discriminate accurately between the effects of arbitration and collective bargaining in raising teachers' salaries. During the period 1931-61, teachers raised their income level in relation to the average incomes paid for professional employment both in the province and in the nation as a whole. Salary anomalies within the B.C. sector of the profession have been virtually eliminated, but a new anomaly was created by the rapid rise in teachers’ salaries after the Second World War. In some school districts, the salaries of senior principals exceeded those paid to district superintendents of schools, who were employees of the provincial government. The rising level of teachers' salaries, combined with increasing school construction costs, have been used as arguments for expanded provincial school grants to municipalities. The school law, as it existed in 1911, delegated considerable authority to school boards and gave them a preponderance of power in relation to their employees. The amendment of 1919, which permitted negotiation and arbitration of salaries, did nothing to disturb the relationship. To counterbalance trustees' power, teachers organized — initially as a federation of local teacher associations. Even when arbitration became demandable, school trustees refused to arbitrate more issues than required by law and generally would not negotiate school board policies that affected teachers' working conditions. Teachers therefore took steps to increase their unity and strength, which increased the efficiency of the B.C.T.F. as a bargaining unit. When attempts to negotiate issues with their employers failed, teachers adopted alternative methods to gain their ends. They appealed to the public for support, engaged in alliances with various organizations to pursue specific objectives, used the professional boycott, and negotiated directly with the provincial government for redress of grievances with their employers. The government responded to these appeals by severely limiting trustees’ administrative discretion, and by legislating upon teachers' pensions and other employment benefits. Teachers’professional aspirations to share, with trustees and provincial government, the power to determine educational policy have generally been unsuccessful, but they have gained influence in some policy areas. Major negotiations between teachers and trustees have tended to shift from the local to provincial level and, since 1956, trustees have made changes in their provincial organization to increase its effectiveness. Extensive use of conciliation, arbitration, and adjudication, has been coupled with expressed dissatisfaction at the results. This combination of events suggests that further research is required especially in development of more satisfactory criteria for negotiating occupational income levels and for measuring teaching efficiency.

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