School in B.C. will not begin on time: negotiator

Mediator walks away, ending hopes teachers' strike will end before school starts

  • Aug. 30, 2014 9:00 a.m.

By The Canadian Press

RICHMOND, B.C. – Veteran mediator Vince Ready has walked away from talks between British Columbia teachers and their employer, smothering parents’ hopes the school year will start on time.

The province’s 40,000 public school teachers went on strike two weeks before summer vacation in June, and the ongoing job action has many worried the start of school may be put on hold indefinitely.

After Ready left the bargaining table Saturday, Peter Cameron, the government’s negotiator, said the current round of talks was over.

Ready is widely regarded as one of Canada’s top labour troubleshooters, and many had held out hope his involvement would finally break the impasse between the two sides.

He brought Jim Iker of the teachers’ union and Cameron together for two days of exploratory talks, but walked out on the third.

But as the talks wrapped up, Cameron said Ready felt the two sides were still too far apart for mediation to begin, which means the school year is now unlikely to start on schedule Tuesday.

“This is effectively terminated,” he said. “We think we have been very frank with Vince.”

“It will not start on time,” Cameron said, referring to the school year.

Cameron said both sides will wait for Ready to determine when they are close enough to resume discussions.

Ready said he tried to establish a framework for mediated negotiations, but the effort failed.

“I just see no basis at this point for meaningful negotiations or mediation, so I’ve just declared an impasse,” he said. “I just don’t see an agreement here at this point.”

Despite Ready’s gloomy assessment, the BC Teachers’ Federation indicated it wasn’t giving up.

“As things stand now, the strike will continue, but we are still determined to get a deal before Sept. 2,” Iker wrote in a press release.

Iker, however, was clearly less optimistic when interviewed immediately after talks fell apart Saturday, admitting the chances of the school year starting on time were remote, at best.

“As of right now, school will not be starting on the second of September, though our teachers would love to be back at work,” he said.

Iker also accused the province’s negotiators of not being prepared to reach a fair settlement for students and teachers.

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association has been bargaining on behalf of government throughout the dispute.

“The BCTF team tried to kick-start meaningful talks by dropping some proposals entirely and reducing others substantially,” Iker wrote. “Unfortunately, the government did not indicate they were willing to make any meaningful moves in return.”

Premier Christy Clark took to social media, saying government wants to have a fair deal as soon as possible, but it must be affordable for taxpayers.

“We want a deal that gives teachers a raise and invests in classrooms, but it must also be in line with settlements for other unions,” she tweeted.

Prior to discussions with Ready, Iker and Cameron met with Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who proposed that both parties put aside the most contentious issues and start mediation.

The issues Fassbender referred to are teachers’ grievances stemming from an ongoing legal battle between the union and government.

Earlier this year, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled in favour of the union, saying the province violated the union’s bargaining rights when it removed provisions related to class size and support from the teachers’ contract in 2002.

The government is appealing the decision.

Teachers have asked the government to set aside $225 million every five years to deal with contract grievances related to the court case, but the government wants to suspend the possible impact of the grievances until the appeal process has finished.

Iker said after the talk on Saturday that teachers were willing to reduce that fund to $100 million.

When Fassbender proposed leaving grievances out of bargaining, and allowing the courts to settle the matter, he argued it would allow negotiations to focus on the key issues.

Iker, however, dismissed that proposal after Saturday’s talks.

“Does the government really expect that teachers would bargain away everything the B.C. Supreme Court has already awarded us?” he wrote in a release. “And what future decisions might bring?”

There was little progress during the summer toward resolving the key sticking points — wages, class size, and support staff levels.

The government has said it will not legislate teachers back to work, but has proposed giving parents of children aged 12 and under $40 a day to help with daycare costs should the strike continue.

-By Steven Chua in Vancouver.

(The Canadian Press, CKNW)

Just Posted

The B.C. Ministry of Education has announced close to $44 million for the province’s schools for COVID-19 recovery. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school stakeholders say COVID-19 recovery funding can make a difference

B.C. Ministry of Education announces it expects a ‘near-normal’ return to class in September

Nanaimo artist Melissa Anderson has paintings on display at White Rabbit Coffee Co. for the next month. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo painter showcases coastal Island views in first exhibit in two years

Melissa Anderson presents ‘Seascapes’ oil painting exhibit at White Rabbit Coffee Co.

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of June 6-12. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
New COVID-19 cases up on Island, but health officials say trends going right way

There were 22 new COVID-19 cases in Greater Victoria last week after just four the week before

Regional District of Nanaimo is looking to repair sewage pipe in the Hammond Bay Road area, which was corroded by gas. (Black Press file)
Corroded sewer pipe along Nanaimo’s Hammond Bay Road will cost $5.5 million to fix

Pipe replacement and reinforcement part of $6.9-million infrastructure project

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Most Read