B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker on Wednesday night announced that teachers had “voted overwhelmingly to back the call for binding arbitration that would see an end to the strike and open schools,” but as expected, Education Minister Peter Fassbender rejected the vote, saying that only negotiations are acceptable to the government.
As many as 30,490 teachers – 99.4% – out of a total of 30,699 voted yes for binding arbitration.
Iker said: “[Thursday] morning, custodial staff could be pulling chairs off desks and teachers could be setting up their classrooms.
“School counsellors could be finalizing time tables.
“Teachers could be powering up the smartboards.
“Classes could start this week. Children could be learning.
“Unfortunately tonight, there is a single group of people standing in the way of schools opening their doors tomorrow.
“The BC Liberal government’s refusal to accept binding arbitration is now the only reason children won’t be back in class.
“Every single one of those MLAs must ask themselves what is the real reason they are keeping schools closed.
“Their refusal is certainly not in the best interests of students or the province.
“Binding arbitration is a fair, workable, and pragmatic plan to open schools and get children back into classrooms with their teachers.
“It is a standard labour relations practice that allows an independent third party to assess the proposals from both sides and implement a fair settlement.
“We know the government has rejected the idea, but they are the only ones.
“Teachers, students, parents, mayors, school boards, legal experts, union leaders, editorial boards – British Columbians across the province have called for binding arbitration.
“This government is alone in its stance.
“BC Teachers have led the way for 18 months proposing solutions and moving negotiations forward.
“This government has said no to arbitration, has tried to stall and block mediation, and has not moved on any monetary proposals in negotiations since June. Not one new dollar to deal with the learning needs of our students.
“If we are going to get a deal and get schools open, the government must show some good faith.
“Arbitrate, mediate, or negotiate. It’s time to put public education first.
“Drop E80, stop trying to protect yourself from the courts, and let’s work together to reach a fair deal that improves funding for schools and support for all our students.”
FASSBENDER released the following statement on Wednesday night:
“The results of this vote were widely expected and understandable.
“We know BC teachers want schools re-opened. That is a goal we all share.
“As we have consistently made clear, binding arbitration would lead to unacceptable tax increases in this case. That’s because the two sides remain too far apart on wages and benefits.
“The best way to resolve this labour dispute remains at the negotiating table.
“I will continue to call on the BCTF to suspend this strike and get into the affordability zone, just like 150,000 other hard-working women and men in the public sector who have settled this year.”