Teachers strike mediation hopes rise as Ready talks to BCTF, province

Negotiators for both sides in bitter strike expected to meet as early as today

There’s fresh hope for mediated talks to end the B.C. teachers strike after Education Minister Peter Fassbender said both sides are in preliminary talks with veteran mediator Vince Ready.

The minister told CBC TV Ready spoke to both B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim Iker and government negotiator Peter Cameron Thursday and were expected to formally meet.

“He is trying to get the parties close enough where he can play a meaningful role,” Fassbender said of Ready. “He will make that decision.”

By Friday morning, education ministry officials were only saying that the parties had agreed not to comment, and would not confirm talks are underway or describe the status of any sessions.

Ready previously began exploratory talks two weeks ago but declared the two sides at impasss and walked away from the table Aug. 30

The latest developments came after Fassbender on Thursday began edging away from from his long-held position not to legislate striking teachers back to work.

“The reality is, government has the ultimate ability to legislate in any situation,” Fassbender told Canadian Press in an interview when asked if he would open the door to the option. “We want a negotiated settlement.”

He had consistently vowed not to impose a settlement on teachers, saying a negotiated deal is critical to break the “dysfunctional” labour-relations cycle.

Union members on Wednesday voted 99.4 per cent to approve the B.C. Teachers’ Federation proposal to end their strike if government accepts binding arbitration.

Fassbender wouldn’t say whether he’s had discussions with the premier about recalling the legislature early or how government would respond if the strike continues into the fall sitting of the house, set for the first week of October.

Premier Christy Clark said she thinks she can get a negotiated deal before she travels to India for a trade mission that’s scheduled to start Oct. 9.

“I’m very hopeful that schools will be back, in fact, I’m certain schools will be back in session by the time I go to India,” she told reporters.

A slate of other B.C. unions also pledged more than $8.5 million for a teachers’ federation general hardship fund earlier in the week, which will be handed out as loans and grants while teachers carry forward without income.

“It seems to me that we’re inching towards them being legislated back,” said political watcher Norman Ruff, University of Victoria professor emeritus. “You could argue it’s going to be a short-term necessity, but in the long run it just fuels the problem that has existed for decades.”

The government and union have a long history of struggle over control of educational policy, with the union striking more than 50 times in the past 40 years and at least three settlements imposed by government.

But the public’s chief concern isn’t how, but when, the dispute concludes. The government is now seen to hold the key to the deadlock, said political science Prof. Hamish Telford, at the University of the Fraser Valley.

“The public looks at government and says, ‘Well, you do have the ability to solve this, even if you don’t want to pay what the teachers are asking, you can legislate. So it is within your power to do it,” Telford said.

“The government may now be feeling a certain amount of pressure from the public that they’ve got to move on this.”

The legislature is set to resume on Oct. 6, and although standard business is slated to occur, back-to-work legislation could be introduced and passed quite quickly by the majority B.C. Liberals, said the professors.

– with files from the Canadian Press

Just Posted

Time to specify where Chilliwack spending priorities should be

It’s that time of year again when City of Chilliwack engages its citizens to weigh in on budgeting

Council votes to give Chilliwack homeless shelter an 18-month extension

There were more than 40 passionate speakers at city hall who had their say for more than four hours

Chilliwack woman finds mysterious coin among Grandma’s collection

Grandmother died when she was very young and her past is not well known to her mother

VIDEO: Chilliwack musician is embracing the revival of the accordion

Accordionist Debra Kartz has seen the instrument become popular again and wants to inspire the next generation

Fantasy Farms told to stop holding special events on farmland that go against agricultural rules

The Morans say it might spell the end of their seasonal events like Reapers Haunted Attractions

VIDEO: B.C. man’s yard comes alive with grizzlies at night

Malakwa man has captured images of 12 different grizzlies on video

Man who orchestrated Mission murders gets day parole after serving less than three years

Victims’ parents express grief, outrage over parole board decision

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

Most Read