June 23, 2014 5:48 pm

Education minister says two sides farther apart than ever

B.C.’s Education Minister says the province and teachers are still “miles apart” and he’s working on contingency plans for September in the event that a deal cannot be reached.

“Unless we narrow the gap between us, we are probably in worse shape than we were a week ago, because there was more optimism,” says Peter Fassbender.

He says that the government is keeping its offer of a signing bonus on the table until the end of the month, but if a deal isn’t reached by then, it will be withdrawn.

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“We have to take it one day at a time. The signing bonus is on the table until the end of the month, if we don’t have a settlement, that will be off the table,” says Fassbender. “We are working on contingencies for September, but the one thing we are not going to do is rush to legislation. We are focused on getting a long-term, negotiated settlement, and I hope we can start the school year on a positive note.”

Fassbender refused to say what the contingencies are, other than to say they were under discussion.

He also says the government will suspend the summer school lockout, but it will be up to the BCTF to lift their strike action so classes can go ahead. The BCTF has not yet said if they plan to do so.

“We will suspend the summer school lockout, so if summer school doesn’t go ahead, they need to talk to the BCTF and ask why summer school isn’t going ahead, and ask if they will lift their strike action,” says Fassbender.

He says “it’s unfortunate” the school year is almost over, and the two sides are still so far apart.

BCTF President Jim Iker had the following statement for Global News regarding the mediation and summer school:

“Teachers are hopeful the government will get behind mediation and bring new funding to the table to bring the two sides closer together to avoid any more disruptions. Teachers have shown a lot of compromise to the point that both sides are now within 1% on wages. It’s time for the government to show a commitment to improving class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers. If government can show a willingness to compromise, we can get a deal and summer school can go forward as planned.

Lifting the lockout on summer school doesn’t bring the two sides closer. It’s funding for class size and composition that will bring the two sides closer. That’s where Peter Fassbender should put his energy.”

 

 

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