It doesn’t look hopeful that students will be back in class on Sept. 2.
While both the provincial government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) released a joint statement that veteran mediator Vince Ready had made himself available to help the sides reach a negotiated settlement last week, he’s been unable to sit down with both parties to hammer out a deal.
“The reality is Vince has met separately with both parties. He’s had discussions about what it would take for mediation to make sense,” Education Minister Peter Fassbender said to reporters this week, adding, “the parties have to be closer, that’s the biggest challenge.”
The BCTF and government have agreed to a media blackout about what’s going on at the bargaining table, so the public is unsure what the latest offer is; however, it’s obvious the two sides are still far apart.
Members of the BCTF are meeting in Kamloops this weekend to discuss their next steps.
“There will be motions from locals for discussion and debate as well as BCTF executive recommendations for consideration,” Sunshine Coast Teacher’s Association president Louise Herle said. “The vote will take place at the BCTF representative assembly meeting Friday, Aug. 22.”
Fassbender said he hoped that meeting would result in some movement on the teachers’ side.
“I hope the teachers of this province say to their leadership ‘get at the table, get a settlement, get us back in the classroom, get us paid. Get the kids learning where they should be,’” Fassbender said. “However, if they expect the government to legislate that decision, the only place that’s going to happen is at the negotiating table. So we need to find that sweet spot where we can come to an agreement, whether it’s through mediation or whatever it takes.”
Fassbender said the government will not legislate teachers back to work because it hasn’t solved things in the past.
“We’ve been on that cycle, we’ve seen what it does and the dysfunction that it actually really creates, because we’re right back into the same cycle. We then become the big, bad government because we legislated the BCTF. And traditionally in the past they’ve taken us to court when we’ve legislated, so we’ve said we are not going to do that,” Fassbender said.
He pointed parents to a new website at www.bcparentinfo.ca that offers information if school doesn’t start on time.
“So parents can see what the options are, they can find out the details about other educational opportunities for their students. If indeed the strike carries on into September, they will also find out about the $40 support payment they can apply for.”
Parents on the Coast are planning for the worst and have been “scrambling” to find childcare, according to District Parents’ Advisory Council co-chair Allyson Fawcus, who notes she has also heard “overwhelming” support for teachers.
“Even though it’s getting down to the wire, I think we are all holding out hope there will be strong education outcomes for our kids,” she said.
Parents, students and school districts can only wait to see what will happen in the days to come. “We are all worried about the uncertainty at this late date,” said School District No. 46 board chair Betty Baxter.
© Coast Reporter