B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

Ready enters talks as BCTF mulls two-week strike truce

Pause in picketing would allow schools to open on time, open window for mediation if BCTF agrees

The province has proposed a two-week truce with striking teachers to at least allow B.C. schools to reopen as scheduled next week while a mediated settlement is pursued.

The idea of a cooling-off period allowing classes to start while mediated talks proceed was put to B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim Iker by Education Minister Peter Fassbender and government negotiator Peter Cameron.

There was no deal between the two sides but both sides said progress was made in the 90-minute meeting Wednesday afternoon and mediator Vince Ready agreed to begin exploratory talks Thursday.

The BCTF has not yet responded to the proposal but Iker indicated he needed union membership approval to halt picketing and urged full mediation to begin immediately.

Fassbender told Black Press he’s surprised and disappointed the union head wouldn’t quickly agree to a strike suspension.

“I had hoped, maybe unrealistically, that Mr. Iker was in a position to agree that there was nothing there that compromised their ability to negotiate with a mediator in the room, that we could see school commence on Tuesday so that students can learn and teachers can be paid,” the minister said.

“We are just asking them to voluntarily stand down and let classes start while the parties are in mediation.”

The B.C. Public School Employers Association would also suspend lockout activity if the truce goes ahead.

Ready is only expected to enter full mediation if he decides the two sides get close enough to put a deal in reach.

Fassbender’s proposal also calls on the union to set aside potential grievances arising from the last court ruling on class size and composition, now under appeal by the province.

He said said that would leave the issue – potentially a liability of nearly $250 million a year for the province – to the court appeal.

Fassbender said setting aside the grievances isn’t a precondition for mediation but said he believed doing so would allow focused talks on the key issues – wages, class size and composition – and potentially get the sides into the settlement zone Ready requires.

Fassbender insisted government won’t legislate an end to the dispute.

“Legislation has been the pattern in the past and it has not resulted in stability. It has actually created uncertainty and instability and that’s why we are not prepared to do it.”

B.C. School Trustees Association president Teresa Rezansoff called on both sides to move from their positions to put students first and ensure schools open Tuesday.

She said the BCTF compensation demand must come closer to what other public sector unions have accepted and the government should plow strike savings into schools rather than redirecting it to parents.

“The money for the proposed $40-a-day subsidy for parents would be better spent on students in schools,” Rezansoff said in an open letter.

Just Posted

North Island College entices international students to Alberni’s ECCE program

Port Alberni had seven international students in January 2019

Port Alberni’s bylaw department shifts from reactive to proactive

8.5 times more files being completed by bylaw officers

Port Alberni’s West Coast Rangers hold rendezvous

Three-day event featured historical re-enactment

Port Alberni Port Authority talks logistics for cruise ship visit

Some restrictions for pedestrians, boaters will be in place

Port Alberni’s ‘Army of Problem Solvers’ to the rescue

Facebook group gathers people who just want to help their neighbours

VIDEO: Protesters in Penticton gather to rally against sleeping-on-sidewalk bylaw

The proposed bylaw would outlaw sitting or lying on the city’s downtown sidewalks

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Most Read