BC teachers’ strike: ‘E80 can be negotiated’ says Fassbender

VANCOUVER – Education Minister Peter Fassbender said he was not surprised to learn 99.4 per cent of teachers voted in favour of binding arbitration to end the ongoing education dispute.

“I suggested yesterday I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was 100 per cent because I know 100 per cent of the teachers in this province, students, parents and quite honestly members of our government, want to see students back in school,” said Fassbender, speaking on the Noon News on Thursday.

In order for negotiations to begin again, however, Fassbender said he thinks the BCTF have to come into “the zone”. But more importantly, the negotiating teams on both sides have to be at the table and willing to look at all of the proposals.

“There is flexibility within the mandate to talk about the issues including some of the dollars and cents issues that are there,” said Fassbender. “And even controversial items like Employer Proposal number 80, that can be negotiated at the table, but we need the BCTF to come with a comprehensive response.”

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The BCTF and teachers want E80 dropped from negotiations but the government wants the proposal to stay, however Fassbender said the government is willing to change some of the language in E80 to give the BCTF some negotiating room.

“We have said clearly, tell us what the problem with E80 is, and we’ll negotiate that,” said Fassbender. “And again, negotiations are about give and take.”

“If there’s a concern about a line in it or some of the language [in E80], that’s what negotiators do at the table. We have said we’re willing to do that and the big issue here, that I think I want every parent, every teacher, every taxpayer in this province to know is that we want to deal with composition in classrooms. We’ve put $375 million for the term of the contract, on the table as part of the negotiations.”

When asked if the teachers could be legislated back to work, Fassbender said he would just like to see both sides back at the bargaining table.

“It’s going to take as long as it takes the parties to go through whatever the outstanding items are, the ability for both parties to give and take at that table, as I said there is some flexibility still within the mandate, so we’re prepared to do that, we’re prepared to find that path to the solution,” said Fassbender. “That is the goal.”

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He did not answer the question of whether there is a deadline day for the government in dealing with this education dispute.

“The last day is the day that we either get a negotiated settlement or we have no other options and then we have to take whatever options that we as government feel is appropriate,” said Fassbender.

He said they do not want it to come to this however, they want to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate.

Global News did reach out to BCTF president Jim Iker but he was unable to appear on the Noon News due to a prior commitment.