June 16, 2014 4:35 pm

Government ‘squandered’ opportunity to get a deal: Iker

WATCH: A full weekend of hardcore bargaining has fallen apart. A couple of hours ago, the BC Teachers Federation announced a chance to reach a deal was “squandered by its employer last night.” Tanya Beja reports.

The BC Teachers’ Federation says the government’s negotiating team ‘squandered’ an opportunity to get a deal with the teachers this weekend and get the students back to school.

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The two sides bargained throughout the weekend at a downtown Vancouver hotel. Things have gone quiet since Friday, with negotiations taking place behind closed doors.

Union President Jim Iker says the provincial government did not respond to their proposal outlined on Friday until Sunday evening, almost 48 hours later.

“The government was unprepared, unwilling and ultimately unhelpful,” said Iker in a press conference this morning. “We made a lot of moves, we waited 48 hours… and what we got back is worse what we got previously.”

However, Global BC Legislative Bureau Chief Keith Baldrey says the employer has a completely different version of events than what BCTF says.

BCPSEA chief negotiator Peter Cameron says he was ‘extremely disappointed’ by Jim Iker’s comments that he says are driving the prospect of a settlement further away.

“Misrepresenting the position of the employer and characterizing our efforts in a derogatory way gives his membership a false understanding of what is taking place at the table,” says Cameron.

Cameron called Iker’s comments about the government going backward on the wage offer ‘misleading.’

“Last night, we made the offer of seven per cent. How is seven per cent going backward from 6.5, not to mention the signing bonus,” says Cameron. “I can’t characterize that as anything other than a misrepresentation.”

Cameron also claims Iker has misrepresented the pace of the negotiations that took place over the weekend.

WATCH: Peter Cameron’s press conference held Monday afternoon

In a statement issued this morning Education Minister Peter Fassbender said, “I appreciated that everyone, especially parents, students and teachers, had hoped to see an agreement over the weekend. BCPSEA has worked very hard to put together a settlement that is fair for teachers, fair for taxpayers, and fair to the 150,000 public-sector workers who’ve already reached agreements. Our goal remains to get to an agreement by June 30 and put this disruption behind us.”

Iker calls the proposal they tabled Friday “fair, reasonable and balanced.”

He says they reduced their wage demands, asking for an eight per cent increase over the next five years, but asked for a larger $5,000 signing bonus.

“Our proposal puts us within one percent of the government’s proposal,” says Iker.

The concessions were made to show the union’s willingness to negotiate a fair settlement, according to Iker.

They are also asking for an education fund to be put in place to address class size, composition and staffing levels for specialist teachers.

Despite lack of progress, Iker says they still have not let the negotiating table, but a full-scale strike is now imminent.

The teachers’ union served the required 72-hours strike notice last Thursday, after the province’s 41,000 teachers voted 86 per cent in favour of escalating job action.

Last Thursday, the Labour Relations Board (LRB) ruled this morning that provincial exams for Grades 10 through 12 and final marks for Grade 12 students are essential services.

Today, teachers are holding study sessions to review BCTF’s revised funding proposals.

Elementary school teachers meeting inside Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver.

Steven Buffee, Global News

WATCH: Keith Baldrey’s update on negotiations

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