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Teachers union, province too far apart for mediation

BCTF president Jim Iker
July 02, 2014 - 2:21 PM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - The teacher’s union and the province are too far apart for mediation to be productive, a potential mediator has decided, and the union is blaming the province.

B.C. Teacher’s Federation President Jim Iker says exploratory discussions with B.C. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kelleher and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association saw the government trying to impose ‘unworkable conditions’ that did not provide the flexibility needed to reach a settlement.

“The government wants teachers to accept wages before talking about class size and composition,” he says. “They’re entrenched in positions we see as unfair and unreasonable. The government rejected compromise.”

He pointed again to the changes the union made in the last proposal before full strike action began in June and says while they have made a ‘number of significant changes’ the government has continued with a restrictive approach.

“They missed an opportunity,” he says. “I’m very disappointed, but we will keep working."

Iker notes the talks with Kelleher were meant to try and figure out how to get mediation going. He says those talks include aspects of wage proposals, which the union was willing to commit to if there were solutions for dealing with the other important issues such as class size and composition.

“We are concerned (about school starting in September),” Iker says. “We continue to be hopeful. We’re ready to be back at a table.”

Iker hopes the government will be willing to compromise in time to allow the next school year to begin on time. Kelleher does have dates open and would mediate the dispute, Iker said.

“You can’t continually hide behind ‘the two sides are too far apart’,” he notes. “That just doesn’t cut it.”

Meanwhile teachers are picketing summer schools in districts that are still considering having the summer programming, though local unions are making their own decisions on how to carry that out.

Teachers began job action in April with restricted administrative and supervisory duties and a month later they added rotating strikes. In June full strike action began, with many Kindergarten to Grade 9 students missing out on the last two weeks of school.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infotelnews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2014

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