Education Minister challenges BCTF to ask members to allow executive to suspend strike action

EDUCATION Minister Peter Fassbender on Monday said that if B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker is serious about a settlement he should do what Fassbender asked him a week and a half ago: “Ask the BCTF members this Wednesday for the ability for the executive to suspend strike action.”

Fassbender added: “That’s my challenge to Mr. Iker.”

Fassbender noted: “On August 27, I called Mr. Iker and Mr. Cameron to a meeting in my office to discuss a way forward and settle this dispute. In what I thought was a reasonable proposal, I asked the BCPSEA to lift any lockout provisions and the BCTF to suspend their strike activities so school could start on time and students and teachers could be back in classrooms.

“I asked Mr. Iker to put the idea of suspending the strike to the BCTF membership so that we could get into serious discussions about wages and benefits and bring the BCTF into the affordability zone and then into meaningful mediation with Mr. Ready and find a negotiated settlement.

“But the BCTF is still asking for nearly twice as much as what other public-sector unions have settled for and they are still demanding a $5,000 signing bonus. That’s not affordable and it’s not fair to other unionized employees.

“Then, last week the BCTF, via a press conference, called for binding arbitration. They gave the BCPSEA’s chief negotiator Peter Cameron five minutes’ notice before making this announcement at their press conference.

“On Saturday, Mr. Cameron sent me a very clear letter which I followed up with a statement, that binding arbitration is not in the cards in this dispute, period. When the NDP government settled with the doctors through binding arbitration, it had a huge impact on the budget of the province and on all of us as taxpayers.”