B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

Ready enters talks as BCTF mulls two-week strike truce

Pause in picketing would allow schools to open on time, open window for mediation if BCTF agrees

The province has proposed a two-week truce with striking teachers to at least allow B.C. schools to reopen as scheduled next week while a mediated settlement is pursued.

The idea of a cooling-off period allowing classes to start while mediated talks proceed was put to B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim Iker by Education Minister Peter Fassbender and government negotiator Peter Cameron.

There was no deal between the two sides but both sides said progress was made in the 90-minute meeting Wednesday afternoon and mediator Vince Ready agreed to begin exploratory talks Thursday.

The BCTF has not yet responded to the proposal but Iker indicated he needed union membership approval to halt picketing and urged full mediation to begin immediately.

Fassbender told Black Press he’s surprised and disappointed the union head wouldn’t quickly agree to a strike suspension.

“I had hoped, maybe unrealistically, that Mr. Iker was in a position to agree that there was nothing there that compromised their ability to negotiate with a mediator in the room, that we could see school commence on Tuesday so that students can learn and teachers can be paid,” the minister said.

“We are just asking them to voluntarily stand down and let classes start while the parties are in mediation.”

The B.C. Public School Employers Association would also suspend lockout activity if the truce goes ahead.

Ready is only expected to enter full mediation if he decides the two sides get close enough to put a deal in reach.

Fassbender’s proposal also calls on the union to set aside potential grievances arising from the last court ruling on class size and composition, now under appeal by the province.

He said said that would leave the issue – potentially a liability of nearly $250 million a year for the province – to the court appeal.

Fassbender said setting aside the grievances isn’t a precondition for mediation but said he believed doing so would allow focused talks on the key issues – wages, class size and composition – and potentially get the sides into the settlement zone Ready requires.

Fassbender insisted government won’t legislate an end to the dispute.

“Legislation has been the pattern in the past and it has not resulted in stability. It has actually created uncertainty and instability and that’s why we are not prepared to do it.”

B.C. School Trustees Association president Teresa Rezansoff called on both sides to move from their positions to put students first and ensure schools open Tuesday.

She said the BCTF compensation demand must come closer to what other public sector unions have accepted and the government should plow strike savings into schools rather than redirecting it to parents.

“The money for the proposed $40-a-day subsidy for parents would be better spent on students in schools,” Rezansoff said in an open letter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Be mindful of COVID-19 safety measures, says City of Penticton

“The threat of COVID-19 is not over,” says mayor John Vassilaki

COLUMN: Books come back with curbside pickup

Okanagan Regional Library begins first phase of reopening process

Summerland once had Old English theme

Design guidelines were introduced in late 1980s

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Crews repair damaged lakefront walkway in Summerland

Flooding in 2017 and 2018 took toll on popular walking path

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Douglas fir trees in Salmon Arm face attack from bark beetle

Online pamphlet can help residents learn how to protect their trees

Power knocked out for 1,700 Lake Country residents

BC Hydro crews on scene to restore the outage

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

Truck thief runs out of gas in North Okanagan

Pickup stolen from Coldstream, found not far away

COVID-19: B.C. park reservations surge as campgrounds reopen

Keep trying, many sites not reservable, George Heyman says

Okanagan film society screening for scholarships

North Okanagan students pursuing creative arts can apply for $2,000 bursaries

B.C. residents can now reserve a provincial campsite for a stay starting June 1

Campsite reservations will only be available to British Columbians

Most Read