September 08, 2014 - 4:46 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - The Education Minister kicked off a press conference Monday afternoon with not one, but two movie references (Groundhog Day and Back to the Future if you were wondering), following them with a counter proposal to the teachers’ union second request to enter binding arbitration.
Since talks broke down just before school was set to start Sept. 5 the two sides have been playing media ping pong, taking turns throwing down ultimatums, proposals and snide comments and waiting for the other party to return a like gesture. The latest was a call on government, by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, to agree to binding arbitration, once last week and again Monday morning.
“This is clear to me it’s an attempt to deflect any responsibilities of itself and put it all on government,” Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Monday. “I believe the BCTF executive knew this government would not go for it, (they did it) to make it look like they’re being reasonable. Binding arbitration is not in the cards in this dispute. Period.”
Fassbender officially turned down the idea on the weekend, saying the government wants a negotiated deal and does not want to hand over responsibility to a third party. Today he said again the government is not willing to enter binding arbitration because of its responsibility to not just teachers, but other unions and taxpayers as well.
“We want this ended. A week and a half ago, I put out a proposal that would’ve seen school start on time,” Fassbender said. “Now we see this initiative to make us look like we don’t want a settlement.”
He also said he would rather be in meaningful discussions instead of having to refute ‘misinformation’ around the clause (E80) dealing with the class composition court case.
“The inference that E80 is a sinister attempt… the misinformation the BCTF is putting out there is driving me crazy,” he said. “We want to negotiate class size and composition. There’s no language saying we’re taking away your rights. There is no sinister attempt to undermine any process underway. It’s silly, absolutely silly. I don’t understand it.”
Fassbender suggests the big set-back on the funding for class composition is coming from the teachers’ union, upset that government could alot some of the funding for educational assistants and other positions, not just for teachers.
He again asked the teachers’ union to suspend strike action and bring the wages and benefits into the same zone as other unions so the groups can begin to negotiate the other parts of the contract.
“Today I’m saying to Mr. Iker, if you’re serious about getting a settlement why not do what I asked a week and a half ago? Ask (members) to suspend strike action so we can go into mediation,” he said. “The (B.C. Public School Employers’ Association) already sent a letter confirming they will lift any lockouts.”
The two sides have been trying to reach an agreement for 18 months and in June teachers began a full strike after several months of low level job action and rotating strikes. The full strike has continued into the new school year, which was set to start Sept. 5., and has forced the cancellation of schools across the province.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014