After talking behind closed doors for days, B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker and Education Minister Peter Fassbender emerged Wednesday to announce mediation isn’t possible.
“The government, by trying to impose a series of unworkable preconditions prior to entering into mediation, has not provided the flexibility required to make mediation work,” Iker told reporters July 2. “The government insisted that teachers accept proposals that would limit bargaining even before entering into mediation.”
The issue, Iker explained, was that government wanted teachers to agree to their “wage demands” before revealing their plan to deal with class size and composition concerns.
“Therefore, with the government maintaining entrenched positions that we see are unfair and unreasonable, mediation will not be able to move forward at this time” Iker said.
The BCTF had been meeting with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and Justice Stephen Kelleher to see if mediation was possible for a few days before Wednesday’s announcement.
“It was recognized that if the parties were in the same zone, mediation might help land a settlement,” Fassbender said in a press release July 2. “Unfortunately, through these exploratory discussions, it became explicitly clear that the BCTF executive would not commit to tabling a set of demands that fall in the same affordability zone as the other public sector agreements reached to date.”
Fassbender stressed that government “has a fundamental commitment to balance the budget,” and that the BCTF wants “more than twice what other unions have settled for.”
“There is no process and no mediator that can bridge this gap at this time. To pretend otherwise only raises false expectation and serves to delay the tough decisions that the BCTF executive needs to make to get to an affordable agreement,” Fassbender said.
Both the BCTF and BCPSEA have said they’re open to negotiating more over the summer, but both want the other side to make the first move.
Iker said he hoped “the government will reconsider its restrictive approach.”
“We will keep the lines of communication open in July to restart bargaining if the government is willing to make real effort and bring the necessary funding back to the table,” Iker said.
Fassbender said the BCTF would have to change their demands to get a deal in place before the next school year starts.
“Let’s hope that the BCTF executive does not take all summer to realize that the best possible deal for teachers is one that lands squarely in the same affordable zone as the settlements government has already reached with other public sector unions,” he said.
© Coast Reporter