B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

Ready enters talks as BCTF mulls two-week strike truce

Pause in picketing would allow schools to open on time, open window for mediation if BCTF agrees

The province has proposed a two-week truce with striking teachers to at least allow B.C. schools to reopen as scheduled next week while a mediated settlement is pursued.

The idea of a cooling-off period allowing classes to start while mediated talks proceed was put to B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim Iker by Education Minister Peter Fassbender and government negotiator Peter Cameron.

There was no deal between the two sides but both sides said progress was made in the 90-minute meeting Wednesday afternoon and mediator Vince Ready agreed to begin exploratory talks Thursday.

The BCTF has not yet responded to the proposal but Iker indicated he needed union membership approval to halt picketing and urged full mediation to begin immediately.

Fassbender told Black Press he’s surprised and disappointed the union head wouldn’t quickly agree to a strike suspension.

“I had hoped, maybe unrealistically, that Mr. Iker was in a position to agree that there was nothing there that compromised their ability to negotiate with a mediator in the room, that we could see school commence on Tuesday so that students can learn and teachers can be paid,” the minister said.

“We are just asking them to voluntarily stand down and let classes start while the parties are in mediation.”

The B.C. Public School Employers Association would also suspend lockout activity if the truce goes ahead.

Ready is only expected to enter full mediation if he decides the two sides get close enough to put a deal in reach.

Fassbender’s proposal also calls on the union to set aside potential grievances arising from the last court ruling on class size and composition, now under appeal by the province.

He said said that would leave the issue – potentially a liability of nearly $250 million a year for the province – to the court appeal.

Fassbender said setting aside the grievances isn’t a precondition for mediation but said he believed doing so would allow focused talks on the key issues – wages, class size and composition – and potentially get the sides into the settlement zone Ready requires.

Fassbender insisted government won’t legislate an end to the dispute.

“Legislation has been the pattern in the past and it has not resulted in stability. It has actually created uncertainty and instability and that’s why we are not prepared to do it.”

B.C. School Trustees Association president Teresa Rezansoff called on both sides to move from their positions to put students first and ensure schools open Tuesday.

She said the BCTF compensation demand must come closer to what other public sector unions have accepted and the government should plow strike savings into schools rather than redirecting it to parents.

“The money for the proposed $40-a-day subsidy for parents would be better spent on students in schools,” Rezansoff said in an open letter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 uses walking sticks while walking up a hill, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Interior Health reports 83 more COVID-19 infections overnight

46 cases are now associated with a COVID-19 community cluster in Revelstoke

What's happening at the Cranbrook Public Library
What’s on at the Cranbrook Public Library

Mike Selby The Library is now open with extended hours (with some… Continue reading

The City of Cranbrook is warning the public that the lake at Idlewild Park is not currently safe to skate on after someone cleared the ice over the weekend. (Submitted file)
Idlewild Lake still not safe for skating: City of Cranbrook

Ice on area waterbodies is currently quite thin, and not yet ready for recreation

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

File Photo
Missing hunter found dead in South Country

A hunter was reported as overdue on Nov. 29, and was found deceased on Nov. 30 following an RCMP and SAR operation

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Most Read