Second mediator bows out of B.C. teacher strike

Second mediator declines to take on B.C. teachers' labour dispute

  • Jul. 2, 2014 8:00 a.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – Mediation is off the table for now in the ongoing labour dispute between British Columbia’s striking teachers and their employer, after a second proposed mediator said the parties were not in a place where he could help.

The teachers’ union and the government each placed the blame on the other Wednesday for bringing the conflict to a stalemate.

“He had some exploratory discussions with the parties and determined that mediation is not indicated at this time,” the BC Teachers’ Federation and BC Public School Employers’ Association said in a joint news release.

No further talks are scheduled.

The two parties had agreed to approach Supreme Court Judge Stephen Kelleher last week about stepping in after veteran mediator Vince Ready said he was unavailable due to his work schedule.

Union president Jim Iker pointed a finger at the government for putting up an obstacle to bargaining, saying it wanted to impose a “series of unworkable pre-conditions” prior to entering mediation. He said government was asking the union to agree to a specific wage offer before it would disclose its proposal for improving classroom conditions.

“The preconditions would have pre-determined the outcome,” he said during a news conference. “I hope the government will reconsider its restrictive approach.”

But Education Minister Peter Fassbender refuted the charge, saying the government has repeatedly stated it will not divert from the wage offer it has agreed to with about half of all other public sector unions.

He said regardless of whether a mediator gets involved, the union must move into what the government has dubbed its “affordability zone.” The minister said the millions of dollars in benefits being sought by teachers are the chasm between the two parties.

“This government is not going to go into deficit to satisfy the needs of the BCTF,” he told reporters during a conference call. “Until they get realistic, we get caught in this standoff.”

With a negotiated deal looking increasingly unlikely, Fassbender reiterated that government will not move to legislate teachers back to work.

But he declined to say just what options the ministry is considering “to ensure students are looked after” come September, as promised.

More than 40,000 teachers walked off the job on June 17, casting about half a million students out of classes about two weeks before the summer break.

The province’s 60 school districts were deliberating on Wednesday how to handle the dispute’s impact on summer school, which the teachers have previously announced they’ll picket.

Last week, the B.C. Labour Relations Board ruled schools must hold summer classes for students in Grades 10 to 12 who failed a course, but only if the course won’t be on the time-table next year. The board asked school districts to compile a list of these courses, although several districts have already announced closures.

The Vancouver School Board said it would shut down for the summer because it has no students who meet the labour tribunal order’s requirements.

“This is really unfortunate,” Supt. Steve Cardwell said in a statement. “However, the reality is that without our teaching and support staff due to the prospect of picket lines at our school sites, summer school will not be able to happen.”

Chilliwack, Williams Lake and Campbell River will also cancel summer classes but have not said if the board’s ruling will force them to offer courses considered essential. Prince George said it has no courses meeting the criteria and will also cancel all summer classes.

Abbotsford will make courses the labour board deemed essential accessible through the district’s online learning website.

___

Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Just Posted

Bus crash survivor petitions Justin Trudeau to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

Father and son duo win Iron Man tournament at Alberni Golf Course

Forty men teed it up for the Iron Man tournament on Sunday

EDITORIAL: Issues, not pettiness, must drive election

Who do you trust? Is that what the latest federal election is going to chalk up to?

BIZ BEAT: Alberni Chamber of Commerce to host women in business forum

Jowsey’s partners with WCGH Foundation for fundraiser

ARTS AROUND: Colourful fundraiser headed to the Alberni Valley

Aché Brasil Dance troop is an explosion of colour, energy and music

Shambhala named best music festival in North America

Shambhala Music Festival is held at the Salmo River Ranch in B.C.

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

NDP, Liberals promise more spending, while Tories promise spending cuts

Making life more affordable for Canadians a focus in the 2019 election

UPDATE: Police probe third threat against a Kamloops high school in eight days

Police have not released any further details into what the threat includes

Charges dropped against Mountie involved in shooting death of Surrey man

‘I feel like I’ve lost Hudson all over again,’ says mom

B.C. Interior caribou protection area big enough, minister says

Proposals sparked protest in Kootenays, Williams Lake region

Two B.C. women selected to compete on ABC’s The Bachelor

Mykenna Dorn and Alexis Thind will compete for bachelor Peter Weber’s heart

Break out the tiki torches: Open fires allowed again in B.C.’s coastal region

All open fires allowed effective at noon on Sept. 18

Most Read