June 20, 2014 1:50 am
Updated: June 20, 2014 2:49 am

Thousands attend rally in downtown Vancouver to support teachers

WATCH: A show of solidarity as thousands of teachers rally in Vancouver, amid calls for a mediator in the ongoing labour dispute. Catherine Urquhart reports.

VANCOUVER – Thousands of teachers, students and union members attended a rally in downtown Vancouver Thursday night to show their support for teachers during the current dispute.

The rally is being held by the BC Teacher’s Federation as well as the BC Federation of Labour.

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“I think the next 48 to 72 hours will tell,” said Jim Sinclair, the BC Federation of Labour president. “If they agree to bring in a mediator like Vince Ready and sit down and get to the bottom of what’s wrong here and get it fixed, then I’d say ‘OK, there’s some hope’.”

BCTF president Jim Iker said he wants the government to come back to the bargaining table in good faith and accept mediation. “Let’s get it done by June 30,” he added.

Both Sinclair and Iker said they hope this rally strengthens the resolve of teachers as they push for a new contract.

Both parties maintain that they are hoping for a resolution by the end of the school year.

The BCTF is calling for $450 million dollars a year, including retroactive pay, for class size, composition and increased medical benefits.

They also want an eight per cent wage increase over five years and a signing bonus.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said earlier in the day that he is disappointed by the BCTF’s demands. The province is offering seven per cent over six years plus a smaller signing bonus.

“I’m disappointed. We are now further away from an agreement than we were a week ago. We want to give teachers a raise but the BCTF leadership is making that virtually impossible.”

“Their wage and benefit demands alone are more than twice what other unions have settled for. On top of that, they are pushing for hundreds of millions more each year in other contract demands,” said Fassbender.

- With files from Catherine Urquhart and Peter Meiszner

 

© Shaw Media, 2014

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