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No deal, teacher strike imminent

BCTF and BCPSEA contradict each other on substance of wage offers and says the next move is up to the other if a deal is to be done.
Peter Cameron

Instead of bargaining, both the teachers' union and the government were engaged in a game of 'he said-she-said' Monday.

Both sides came out swinging with the BC Teachers' Federation landing the first punch.

After an unsuccessful weekend of bargaining between the BCTF and the BC Public School Employers' Association, BCTF president Jim Iker attacked the government's bargaining unit, and Christy Clark specifically, for "squandering" an opportunity to get students back to school in a live stream news conference Monday morning.

He said the teachers' union had presented a proposal in which it had backed off on several of its initial demands, including cost-of-living increases and a reduced wage increase of eight per cent over five years, instead of 12 per cent over four years as was initially proposed.

"Our executive made the difficult decision to reduce our salary proposal to show good faith, and that we're serious about negotiating a fair settlement," said Iker. "It was not a deal that addressed all our concerns about cost of living … but it shows a willingness to get a deal, and to be reasonable."

In its proposal, the union requested a $5,000 signing bonus; a significant inflation from the government's offering of $1,200 if a deal is achieved prior to June 30.

BCPSEA, representing the province's 60 school districts, countered with a salary proposal of seven per cent over six years, which Iker claimed was a quarter per cent less than what was previously offered.

However, Peter Cameron, BCPSEA chief negotiator, called that statement a blatant misrepresentation of the facts.

In a media conference held Monday afternoon, Cameron said BCPSEA had initially put 7.3 per cent on the table, but because a portion of that was to come from outside the collective agreement, the union was against it. BCPSEA, he said, backed off at that the request of the union, reducing the offer to 6.5 per cent.

"So how is seven per cent going backwards from 6.5, not to mention the signing bonus?" asked Cameron. "I can't characterize that as anything other than a misrepresentation… It's one thing to characterize in a way that's favourable to your side and another to say something that's completely false."

Cameron said the union's latest wage offer is a reduction from its previous position, but when increased benefit costs are factored in, it is still more than twice as much compensation as other public sector union settlements.

Both sides said they'd rather be at the bargaining table. Both sides blamed the other for the reason why they weren't at the table. Both sides said the next move is up to the other if a deal is to be reached.

The one thing they did agree on was that a full-strike was underway.