September 05, 2014 - 4:20 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - The education minister was not willing to say no to a proposal put forward by the teachers’ union this morning, but he did go as far as saying he is not a fan of binding arbitration.
During a press conference this afternoon, Peter Fassbender said binding arbitration takes away the responsibility of the parties to do the hard bargaining and make the hard decisions.
“We want a negotiated settlement. The only (option) that makes sense is for both parties to be at the table,” Fassbender said.
This morning B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker said the union would be willing to enter binding arbitration, but only if the government was willing to remove a clause dealing with the class size and composition court case. If the government agrees to arbitration, he said, then teachers would vote as to whether they would stop striking and potentially return to work.
That proposal was only given verbally to Fassbender and negotiator Peter Cameron a few minutes before Iker made the proposal public, the education minister said. He also said until he sees a detailed, written proposal he will not comment specifically on the possibility of binding arbitration as a way to settle the dispute.
“It’s hard for me to comment because I haven’t been given the details,” he said. “The reality is I’ve never been a fan of binding arbitration, I don’t think anyone in the labour relations field thinks that it’s a vehicle that serves the needs of all parties, but until we see the proposal I won’t make a statement on it.”
Fassbender says the government's will to negotiate does not preclude the court case and the court case is an impediment to reaching a fair, negotiated deal.
“We want to work with teachers, parents, other partners, but it has to be a cooperative group, not one-sided,” he said of class size and composition. “That’s why we want to negotiate, why we’ve said we won’t legislate (teachers back to work).”
Teachers in Kamloops expected this type of response from government. At a rally Friday afternoon, which saw members of the B.C. New Democrat Caucus on hand, the local union president David Komljenovic said he does not think the government even wants to settle.
“I do think they’re trying to break us,” he said. “They seem to have an ulterior motive. But we’re standing strong. We know how important this is.”
Teachers have been on strike since June and after negotiations fell apart over the weekend school was cancelled just before it was set to resume again this week. Fassbender asked both the teachers’ union and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association to withdraw any lockout and strike action during mediation but Iker said the teachers were not willing to do so.
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