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Bargaining in teacher's strike going nowhere — BCTF president calls for mediator

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
June 20th, 2014

Miles apart? Try light years.

“We are not even close in where we need to be in order to get a negotiated agreement,” B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Thursday after the two parties in the teacher’s strike took to the media to explain their sides.

“BC teachers have put forward a fair and reasonable framework for a deal that would see improved learning conditions for students on the first school day in September,” countered BCTF President Jim Iker.

And so the labour dispute continues with Fassbender calling the union’s latest proposal too much for the government to handle, instead using the contracts settled by 150,000 other public sector employees as the benchmark for where these negotiations need to go.

“The affordability zone is clearly indicated by all of the other representatives of public sectors that are there. And you can see the BCTF is clearly in a zone of their own. That’s not affordable. It’s not realistic,” Fassbender said.

Meanwhile, Iker said the only way a deal can be done is to bring in a mediator.

“Two more days of bargaining have gone by with no progress or counter offers from government and BCPSEA,” Iker said.

“At this point, the best way to get that deal that works for BC’s public education system is through mediation. Christy Clark should say yes to mediation today.”

The BCTF said the framework for a settlement is based on five key points.

  • a five-year term
  • a reasonable 8% salary increase plus signing bonus
  • no concessions
  • a $225 million annual workload fund to address issues of class size, class composition, and staffing ratios as an interim measure while both parties await the next court ruling
  • a $225 million retroactive grievances fund, over the life of the collective agreement, as a resolution to Justice Griffin’s BC Supreme Court decision that retroactively restored the stripped language from 2002. This fund would be used to address other working conditions like preparation time and TTOC compensation improvements, as well as modest improvements to health benefits.

But Fassbender said the BCTF is way off base in regard to its demands.

“On Wednesday, the BCTF presented their full set of demands,” he said.

“They filled in their blanks and clarified their positions. And instead of moving us closer, their latest demands moved them further away from the affordability zone for public sector settlements. 

“Their wage and benefit demands alone are more than twice what other unions have settled for. On top of that, they are pushing for hundreds of millions more each year in other contract demands.”

“I’m disappointed. We are now further away from an agreement than we were a week ago. We want to give teachers a raise but the BCTF leadership is making that virtually impossible,” Fassbender added.

“The government and BCPSEA remain committed to working with the BCTF achieve the best possible deal for teachers – while keeping it fair for other workers and affordable for taxpayers.”

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