UPDATE: Education Minister rejects BCTF’s call for binding arbitration to end teachers’ strike

Education Minister Peter Fassbender and BCTF President Jim Iker, File Photo.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender and BCTF President Jim Iker, File Photo. The Canadian Press

Education Minister Peter Fassbender has rejected the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s proposal to enter binding arbitration to end the current labour dispute. Chief government negotiator Peter Cameron said it wasn’t a serious proposal, in a press conference late this afternoon.

Yesterday, BCTF President Jim Iker called on the provincial government to enter into the alternative dispute resolution process. In arbitration, as opposed to mediation, the arbitrator makes a final decision on the issues after listening to both parties.

Iker said this is the fastest way to end the dispute and get children back into classes.

“For this option to work, the BCTF is proposing to send matters of compensation, benefits and preparation time to binding arbitration,” said Iker.

The Vancouver School Board has previously called for binding arbitration to end the strike.

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“We need the pressure to continue,” said Iker. “The pressure on government, the pressure on members.”

WATCH: B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker discusses how binding arbitration could bring this dispute to an end.

Before he had seen the proposal on Friday, Fassbender said it would be considered, but that he still believes in a negotiated settlement to end the strike. He also said historically binding arbitration has impacted taxpayers negatively.

From the government’s point of view, the main issue with binding arbitration is that it is a potentially very expensive proposition. With the two sides so far apart, the government could possibly lose control over its budget and analysts think it is unlikely they would allow that to happen.

Fassbender said on Friday the government will not raise taxes to fund an arbitration.

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“After due diligence and further investigation, it became very clear that it was another empty effort to give parents and teachers a false hope that there is a simple way to resolve the dispute,” said Fassbender, in a prepared statement issued today.

He said the BCTF insisted on preconditions to binding arbitration, “that would effectively tilt the entire process in the BCTF favour.”

At the press conference, Cameron said the BCTF failed to present him with a written proposal for the arbitration. He said he’s met with BCTF President Jim Iker and Vince Ready to discuss arbitration, but after due diligence has instructed Education Minister Peter Fassbender to reject the proposal.

“This dispute needs to be settled at the bargaining table and I invite them again to lift their pickets while the parties work towards mediating an end to this dispute,” said Fassbender, according to a statement issued by his office.