B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker is calling upon Premier Christy Clark to meet with him to help reach a fair settlement to the current strike/lockout before September 2.
Over the weekend in talks with Vince Ready, the BCTF trimmed its package by $125 million. By contrast the BC Public School Employers’ Association did not bring one penny to the table. Furthermore, the government is insisting upon a court case escape clause, that would in effect nullify two class size and composition wins in the BC Supreme Court and any future decision in teachers’ favour.
“The BCPSEA didn’t get the job done this weekend. They weren’t prepared or authorized to make the moves necessary to get the deal done,” Iker said. “Now it’s up to the Premier to step in and help get this deal done so that kids and teachers can get back to class.”
EDUCATION Minister Peter Fassbender told the media that he will not legislate teachers back to work. He said that the gap between what the government offered and what the BCTF wants is $300 million.
NDP Education Spokesperson Rob Fleming said: “With just two days left before the start of school, it is clear Education Minister Peter Fassbender has utterly failed kids and families in B.C. Either he should admit he is not up to the task and step down, or Premier Clark should remove him.
“The Minister has delayed and obstructed talks with teachers all summer. Despite saying repeatedly the government is willing to be at the bargaining table 24/7, instead he squandered the entire summer, making no progress, denying mediation would work, making no moves to improve classroom conditions, and refusing to come to the table this week ready to get a deal.
“There has been no indication Minister Fassbender is prepared to negotiate sincerely on critical classroom issues. His lead negotiator admits the government refuses to negotiate on class size and composition – an issue that parents know affects all our children’s ability to be successful in school – until teachers give in to the government’s position on wages and benefits. This approach fails to acknowledge that for mediation to be successful, everything has to be on the table.
“Instead of putting real effort towards reaching a deal to get our kids back in classrooms, Minister Fassbender has put his efforts towards deploying a cynical plan to spend tax dollars intended for the classroom to buy off parents with a cheque for $40 a day while the impasse continues. Minister Fassbender has badly misread the situation, and has only hurt the chances of resolving the dispute.
“Like hundreds of thousands of other B.C. parents with kids in the public school system, my family should be spending this last weekend of summer getting ready for the first day of school. Minister Fassbender’s failure means instead that parents are scrambling to figure out what to do, and are frustrated and worried about their children’s future. Clearly he is not capable of overseeing B.C.’s education system.”
MEDIATOR Vince Ready left the teachers’ dispute talks on Saturday, saying that the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the government are too far apart.
Iker in a statement slammed the government, but added:“To be clear, teachers have not walked away. We have not given up. As things stand now, the strike will continue. But we are still determined to get a deal before September 2.
Iker said on Saturday that after two days with Ready, “it has become clear that the government is not prepared to find a fair settlement that will get BC’s students and teachers back in classrooms.”
He added: “The BCTF team tried to kick start meaningful talks by dropping some proposals entirely and reducing others substantially. In total, our moves today reduced our package by $125 million.
“Unfortunately, the government did not indicate they were willing to make any meaningful moves in return.
“Education Minister Peter Fassbender has said many times: “Let the courts decide.” And we agree entirely with that approach. But, in reality, what they are insisting upon at the table would undo any future court decision.
“Does the government really expect that teachers would bargain away everything the BC Supreme Court has already awarded us? And what future decisions might bring?
“Twice now the government has been found to have violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms in BC Supreme Court. And now, the BC Liberals are trying to negotiate away those court losses and any future decisions.”
Fassbender in a statement on Saturday said: “I’m very disappointed for students, parents and teachers. What should be a time of excitement and anticipation will instead be marked by frustration and uncertainty.
“I wish I could tell British Columbians when students will be back in school. But right now, I don’t see any quick or easy solutions.
“Everything we’ve tried to do was to have schools open on time and to reach a settlement. Unfortunately, the BCTF leadership has stubbornly refused every effort to reach a fair deal and they have even refused to give teachers a chance to vote on suspending the pickets while an agreement is mediated.
“Negotiating a settlement requires union leaders to stand in front of their members and explain what has been achieved at the bargaining table. I worry the BCTF leadership is actually counting on government to legislate an end to this strike so they can avoid having a difficult conversation with their members about what is realistic and achievable.”