B.C.’s public school teachers vote overwhelmingly in favour of binding arbitration

WATCH: B.C. Teachers voted overwhelmingly to push the government to accept binding arbitration. But will have an impact? Jeremy Hunka has details.

B.C.’s public school teachers voted 99 per cent in favour of binding arbitration to be used to resolve the ongoing dispute that has delayed the beginning of the new school year.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker said 30,669 teachers cast ballots and 99.4 per cent voted yes to returning to work, but only if the government agrees to binding arbitration.

Iker again called on the provincial government to drop E80 from their proposal and said, “if we’re going to get a deal, the government must show some good faith.”

So far, the government has rejected the idea of binding arbitration, calling the move a “ploy” to win public favour.

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Following tonight’s press conference Education Minister Peter Fassbender released a statement saying the results of this vote were “widely expected and understandable.” And while the minister said they know B.C. teachers want schools re-opened, he reiterated “binding arbitration would lead to unacceptable tax increases” due to the sides still being too far apart when it comes to wages and benefits.

And again, Fassbender called on the BCTF to suspend the strike and get into the “affordability zone, just like 150,000 other hard-working women and men in the public sector who have settled this year.”

Meanwhile, finance minister Mike de Jong says teachers will be in line for wage increases, but only modest ones.

De Jong claims the BCTF’s latest proposal would amount to an average property tax increase of $200 a year or a five-cent a litre boost to the gas tax.

READ MORE: B.C. teachers’ strike, possible cost to taxpayers

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Earlier in the day, nine unions banded together and announced $8 million in interest-free loans for financially struggling members of the teachers’ union.

“It’s not going to be money that’s going to end this dispute. No one will be starved out here,” said B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair, flanked by eight labour leaders who vowed support for teachers outside a Vancouver high school.

“It’s going to be (Premier) Christy Clark who must end this dispute by going to arbitration and solving the problems,” Sinclair said.

Along with the loans, the B.C. Nurses’ Union, which will soon be negotiating its own contract ending in March, donated $500,000 to the teachers’ union to ensure the government does not “bleed them dry,” said president Gayle Duteil.

– With files from The Canadian Press