The classrooms will be empty come Tuesday, Sept. 2 as the B.C. teachers’ strike continues.
After several days of exploratory talks between veteran labour mediator Vince Ready, the provincial government and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), Ready pulled away from the table Saturday evening saying the two sides were simply too far apart to continue meaningful discussions.
“I just see no basis at this point for meaningful negotiations or mediation, so I have declared an impasse,” said Ready in speaking to media Saturday night.
On Sunday afternoon, School District No. 46 superintendent Patrick Bocking released a statement on the SD46 website saying schools would be closed until a settlement is reached.
“Saturday evening, mediator Vince Ready left talks between the BCTF and the British Columbia Public Schools Employers' Association (BCPSEA), indicating that the sides are too far apart to come to a resolution anytime soon,” said Bocking. “Given this information at this time, it is highly unlikely that schools will be in session on Tuesday, Sept. 2 and perhaps longer.”
“Parents with questions about their children's education are welcome to contact their child's principal at the school telephone number,” he said. “We continue to hope for a resolution in the near future.”
Following Ready’s decision to leave the table, both sides in this bitter dispute fired shots are each other with each blaming the other for not getting a deal done.
On Sunday, BCTF president Jim Iker called upon Premier Christy Clark to meet with him to help reach a fair settlement before Sept. 2.
“Over the weekend in talks with Vince Ready, the BCTF trimmed its package by $125 million. By contrast the BC Public School Employers’ Association did not bring one penny to the table,” said Iker. “Furthermore, the government is demanding a court case escape clause, that would in effect nullify two class size and composition wins in the BC Supreme Court and any future decision in teachers’ favour.
“The BCPSEA didn’t get the job done this weekend. They weren’t prepared or authorized to make the moves necessary to get the deal done. Now it’s up to the premier to step in and help get this deal done so that kids and teachers can get back to class.”
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said he was disappointed for students, parents and teachers.
“What should be a time of excitement and anticipation will instead be marked by frustration and uncertainty,” said Fassbender. “I wish I could tell British Columbians when students will be back in school. But right now, I don't see any quick or easy solutions.
“Everything we've tried to do was to have schools open on time and to reach a settlement. Unfortunately, the BCTF leadership has stubbornly refused every effort to reach a fair deal and they have even refused to give teachers a chance to vote on suspending the pickets while an agreement is mediated.”
Meanwhile as the two sides continue to point fingers at each other, the provincial government released details Sunday on its parent support program.
Parents of public school students 12 years old and under can register at http://bcparentinfo.ca/ to receive $40 per student for each day school is not in session.
The temporary education support for parents program is intended to help parents with the added cost of learning and supervision for the duration of the labour disruption.
Parents and primary caregivers are eligible to apply. Primary caregivers can include step-parents, legal guardians, foster parents, host parents for international students, caregivers with temporary custody arrangements, and family members who normally care for the student, such as grandparents.
To register parents and primary caregivers will need to provide the name, address, date of birth, school district number and school for each eligible student.
Payment will be made by cheque in a single payment mailed to the address provided during registration. Most payments will be processed within 30 days after the month that the labour disruption ends. Payments for students attending kindergarten, and for students who are new to B.C. public schools, will also be made after the labour disruption ends, once enrollment for the current school year can be confirmed.
Eligible parents will have four months from the end of the month in which the labour disruption is settled to register for the temporary education support.
Editor’s note: Coast Reporter will continue to follow the labour dispute and will provide updates as new information becomes available.
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