August 27, 2014 - 4:19 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - In an effort to get negotiations moving, Education Minister Peter Fassbender met with the lead negotiators today and asked teachers to ‘voluntarily stand down and let classes start while the parties are in mediation.’
Fassbender met with B.C. Teachers’ Federation President Jim Iker and B.C. Public School Employers’ Association representative Peter Cameron Wednesday in hopes of making sure students can return to school on Tuesday.
“To make that happen both sides need to focus on the issues that can be mediated and settled immediately and set aside some matter that will be dealt with by the courts,” Fassbender said. “I proposed three specific steps to reach a settlement and clear the way for students to go back to school on schedule.”
He asked them to set aside potential grievances stemming from the court decision as the appeals process takes place, urged them to enter mediation as soon as possible with a focus on wages and class size and composition.
“It remains up to (Vince Ready) to decide when to start full mediation,” he said. “As soon as (Ready) indicates mediation should commence, we are ready. In fact, we are ready now.”
He then asked for strike and lockout activities to be suspended for two weeks when mediation starts.
"Government has no plan to legislate an end to this dispute and we are not asking either the BCTF or BCPSEA to give up their right to strike or lockout,” he said. "We are just asking them to voluntarily stand down and let classes start while the parties are in mediation.”
Teachers began job action in April and moved to rotating strikes a month later. In June school ended abruptly when teachers moved to a full strike with just over a week of the school calendar left.
At that point Ready said the two sides were too far apart for mediation but has since met with each party separately. Teachers resumed strike action this week and have said they will continue to strike until an agreement is made, even if it delays the start of the school year.
The province is offering parents a $40 per day subsidy per school-age child under 13-years-old beginning next week if teachers continue to strike. The subsidy will be funded from the government's savings of $12 million each day that teachers are on strike and for as long as the labour dispute continues.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014