Second mediator bows out of B.C. teacher strike

Second mediator declines to take on B.C. teachers' labour dispute

  • Jul. 2, 2014 5:00 a.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – Mediation is off the table for now in the ongoing labour dispute between British Columbia’s striking teachers and their employer, after a second proposed mediator said the parties were not in a place where he could help.

The teachers’ union and the government each placed the blame on the other Wednesday for bringing the conflict to a stalemate.

“He had some exploratory discussions with the parties and determined that mediation is not indicated at this time,” the BC Teachers’ Federation and BC Public School Employers’ Association said in a joint news release.

No further talks are scheduled.

The two parties had agreed to approach Supreme Court Judge Stephen Kelleher last week about stepping in after veteran mediator Vince Ready said he was unavailable due to his work schedule.

Union president Jim Iker pointed a finger at the government for putting up an obstacle to bargaining, saying it wanted to impose a “series of unworkable pre-conditions” prior to entering mediation. He said government was asking the union to agree to a specific wage offer before it would disclose its proposal for improving classroom conditions.

“The preconditions would have pre-determined the outcome,” he said during a news conference. “I hope the government will reconsider its restrictive approach.”

But Education Minister Peter Fassbender refuted the charge, saying the government has repeatedly stated it will not divert from the wage offer it has agreed to with about half of all other public sector unions.

He said regardless of whether a mediator gets involved, the union must move into what the government has dubbed its “affordability zone.” The minister said the millions of dollars in benefits being sought by teachers are the chasm between the two parties.

“This government is not going to go into deficit to satisfy the needs of the BCTF,” he told reporters during a conference call. “Until they get realistic, we get caught in this standoff.”

With a negotiated deal looking increasingly unlikely, Fassbender reiterated that government will not move to legislate teachers back to work.

But he declined to say just what options the ministry is considering “to ensure students are looked after” come September, as promised.

More than 40,000 teachers walked off the job on June 17, casting about half a million students out of classes about two weeks before the summer break.

The province’s 60 school districts were deliberating on Wednesday how to handle the dispute’s impact on summer school, which the teachers have previously announced they’ll picket.

Last week, the B.C. Labour Relations Board ruled schools must hold summer classes for students in Grades 10 to 12 who failed a course, but only if the course won’t be on the time-table next year. The board asked school districts to compile a list of these courses, although several districts have already announced closures.

The Vancouver School Board said it would shut down for the summer because it has no students who meet the labour tribunal order’s requirements.

“This is really unfortunate,” Supt. Steve Cardwell said in a statement. “However, the reality is that without our teaching and support staff due to the prospect of picket lines at our school sites, summer school will not be able to happen.”

Chilliwack, Williams Lake and Campbell River will also cancel summer classes but have not said if the board’s ruling will force them to offer courses considered essential. Prince George said it has no courses meeting the criteria and will also cancel all summer classes.

Abbotsford will make courses the labour board deemed essential accessible through the district’s online learning website.

___

Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Just Posted

Voting Day: Here’s what you need to know

Voting stations are open until 8 p.m.

Kids have fun at the Mountain Harvest Festival

The Begbie View Elementary School gym was packed Friday night with Halloween activities

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

VIDEO TOUR: Eagle Pass Lodge recognized at Thompson Okanagan Kootenay Commercial Building Awards

Eagle Pass Heli Skiing’s lodge is located south of Revelstoke on Highway 23

Former Vernon man guilty of Japanese exchange student’s murder

Natsumi Kogawa was found at empty heritage mansion shortly after she was reported missing in 2016

Cough cough: Kelowna MLA gets flu shot to prep for the cold season

Steve Thomson got his flu shot from Lakeside Medicine Centre Friday

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Black trucks figure prominently in Shuswap thefts

Chase RCMP investigating stolen vehicles from several communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Most Read