Teachers must move into the ‘zone of affordability’ says education minister

"It's going to take the union coming forward with a realistic wage and benefits package," the minister told The Progress.

A series of rallies in support of striking teachers

Education minister Peter Fassbender confirmed the provincial government is feeling the heat at this point.

The dispute that has pitted the B.C. Teachers’ Federation against the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, has seen the parties drift further apart recently.

“I would describe it this way: We want children in school,” the education minister told The Progress.

“We want families to be able to function again with their kids in school; to be able to carry on with their lives. We’re feeling the pressure of that not happening, certainly.

“But we need to remember that this is the BCTF’s strike, not ours.”

Asked if the minister was worried that parents will gravitate to the private education sector out of frustration, he said he was not worried.

“I have a lot of faith in the public education system,” replied Fassbender. “My grandkids go to public schools. Parents have a right to make a choice. They will have to weigh those factors.”

With all parties stymied to this degree, what is it going to actually take to have this teachers’ strike end decisively?

“It’s going to take the union coming forward with a realistic wage and benefits package that brings them into the same affordability zone as other public sector unions.”

It would take the willingness to negotiate, and maybe enter into mediation for other issues, and put the strike action on hold while they do that, he said.

Last week a proposal put before the BCTF president and chief negotiator for BCPSEA, to suspend things in a two-week timeout for school to begin, was rejected by the union.

“We would have had a two-week period to see if the BCTF could come into the affordability zone, and we could see if the mediator was willing to book the parties into full mediation,” Fassbender said.

He been busy this week, myth-busting and correcting misconceptions out there about the province’s position.

“It’s been suggested we are not willing to go into mediation, but we absolutely are, if the mediator accepts that it is possible, and if he determines that it is warranted.”

Tentative steps in this direction ended when Vince Ready stepped away from exploratory talks without a negotiated agreement, saying the parties were too far apart.

“But the suggestion that government is therefore unwilling to commit to mediation, is not correct,” he underlined.

The other major misconception is the suggestion they’re unwilling to negotiate on class size and composition in the wake of court decisions, which are under appeal, he noted.

“Indeed we are,” he said about the last proposal that was put in writing, with $375 million specifically to address those all-important class size and composition issues.

“But so far the union has not been willing to take our proposal or offer to their membership.

“It was a very sincere offer on my part, to get the students back in classrooms, and get teachers teaching.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

Just Posted

Streets of Chilliwack to come alive with classic cars, summer parties

Fortin’s Village Classic Car Show and Party in the Park draw tens of thousands to downtown Chilliwack

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from June 17 to 23

Chilliwack’s Secondary Characters celebrate a decade of drama with cabaret

Secondary Characters 10th annual Confectioner’s Cabaret features desserts, performing arts

National Indigenous Peoples Day in Chilliwack has two events

One event is at Tzeachten Field and the other at the Sto:lo Resource Centre

UPDATE: Two-year-old involved in Chilliwack pool drowning has died

Toddler was reported to not be breathing as air ambulance called out Thursday afternoon

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

Metro Vancouver’s air quality could be the worst yet this wildfire season

As wildfire season approached, Metro Vancouver experts predict the air will be an issue for many

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Update: Multiple fires along the railway tracks in Pitt Meadows

CP rail has closed tracks while firefighters work

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

Most Read