Classes delayed in ongoing B.C. teachers' strike
B.C. teacher’s union president Jim Iker called on Premier Christy Clark to meet with him directly in a press conference Sunday, after discussions between the union and the province broke down on Saturday night.
“Our members do not want to be legislated back,” said Iker. “What we need is this government to bring the resources to the table to get a deal done…we don’t need any more legislative contracts…we want a negotiated agreement.” He said the BCTF has made significant moves, but didn’t see the same from the government. Iker couldn’t give any indication of when the teachers may be returning to the classroom.
WATCH: Rumina Daya asks Iker about being legislated back to work.
Shortly afterward, Clark tweeted out:
1/4 Unfortunately, the BCTF rejected our offer to reopen schools while the two sides enter mediation to reach an agreement.
2/4 Instead, the BCTF is sticking to its strike and demanding twice as much money as everyone else in the public service has received.
3/4 That’s not fair for the 150,000 dedicated women and men who have reached long-term agreements with affordable raises.
4/4 Class comp. is priority #1 — more educators helping more students. BCTF or CUPE, it doesn’t matter because students’ needs come first.
Global News reached out to her on Twitter to ask whether or not she will be meeting with Iker face to face, but has not yet received a response.
In a press conference earlier this afternoon, Education Minister Peter Fassbender expressed his disappointment in not reaching a negotiated settlement with the BCTF but went on to say the outcome is a “clear indication to me that the BCTF is not prepared to move significantly enough to put us in the zone where mediation is warranted or where a negotiated settlement can be.”
Honing in on yesterday’s response from Iker about reasons for negotiations breaking down, Fassbender says that while he appreciates the union making substantial moves of removing $105 million from their proposal, the reality is there’s still an enormous gap.
“The reality is there is still over $300 million of gap between what the government put on the table with other public sector unions and what the BCTF is asking for… we are not going to put our fiscal plan and this province into deficit to meet unrealistic demands from of the BCTF.”
Fassbender also says they are prepared to give a fair settlement to teachers, which align with what they have done with 150,000 other public sector employees of the province. He also reiterated they will not be legislating teachers back to work as that decision would put them back into the same position they’ve been in for far too long.
WATCH: Fassbender outlines the province’s position
New Democrat education spokesperson Rob Fleming released a statement today, calling on Fassbender to step down or for Premier Christy Clark to remove him from his position as Education Minister, saying “he has utterly failed kids and families in B.C.”
Negotiations between the BCTF and the province broke down early Saturday evening in Richmond, as Ready walked away from the bargaining table. He said the two sides were too far apart.
“The parties still remain a long way apart on the issues of class composition and benefits and wages so I’ve declared an impasse,” Ready told Global News. “I just see no basis at this point for meaningful negotiations or mediation…these disputes all settle at some point, but certainly there’s no basis for a settlement today…I don’t see a resolution here before the start of school given the positions of the parties. They are a long, long ways apart.”
WATCH: Veteran mediator walks out of talks
B.C. Government’s chief negotiator Peter Cameron told Global News there would be no school on Tuesday for students. He said the two sides were still stuck on benefits and wages and called those two areas “stumbling blocks” in the negotiations.
“One thing that has to come off the table is expecting to get a lot more than other public sector employees have settled for in the province,” Cameron said.
“And they’re still standing there with an extraordinary amount of additional money and we simply can’t go there. So that’s a problem. We want to get into class size and composition area. We have some proposals that will be very helpful but in the circumstances, we have to deal getting through this amazingly large sum of money that they want more than everybody else.”
According to Cameron and the education minister, the government is in no rush to legislate the teachers back to work and he said they are prepared to return to talk when they get word from Ready.
Yesterday, Iker indicated the two sides were working hard to reach a deal before Tuesday. After the talks broke down, he said: “It has become clear that the government is not prepared to find a fair settlement that will get B.C.’s students and teachers back in the classrooms.” He said the government’s approach at the table would undo any future court decisions.
He said one of the biggest sticking points is the issue of addressing a B.C. Supreme Court decision from January 2014 that restored provisions for smaller class sizes and other class composition guarantees and reiterated that point today.
“What we say is if we win the appeal and there’s no further moves up to the Supreme Court, then government honour the restoration and put those provisions back into the collective agreement so our students can have some of those issues addressed,” said Iker.
On Friday, the Superintendent of Schools in Vancouver had sent out a letter apologizing to parents for the high level of uncertainty around the beginning of a new school year.
Today, the provincial government released more information on how parents can collect the $40 per child under 13 that parents are supposed to receive. A website was launched where parents could register to receive the money, which will be paid out to them by cheque once a settlement is reached, according to the site.
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