Premier Christy Clark has been criticized in recent days for keeping a low profile as the teachers strike rolled into September without a deal.

Updated: BCTF rejects premier’s call to suspend school strike

Christy Clark insists union's demands remain too high, urges pause in picketing to allow schools to open (WITH VIDEO)



Premier Christy Clark today urged the B.C. Teachers Federation to suspend its strike to allow public school classes to open while negotiations continue.

And she insisted the union get “realistic” and move towards the public sector pattern on wage increases so the two sides can hammer out a deal to improve class support for special needs, which she called the biggest issue facing the education system.

“There are no easy fixes and no shortcuts to achieving long-term labour peace for kids,” Clark said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

BCTF president Jim Iker ruled out a pause in the strike along the lines of the two-week truce the province proposed last week and is still offering.

“The government remains entrenched and unwilling to be flexible,” he told reporters. “We’re not suspending any strike right now.”

The premier had been criticized in recent days for keeping a low profile – apart from a few posts on Twitter and Facebook – as the teachers strike rolled into September without a deal.

“This is going to be settled at the negotiating table by negotiators,” Clark said. “There’s no magic wand, there’s no one who can walk in and say ‘Guess what? I’ve come up with some simple, easy way that’s magically going to solve this.'”

The premier said the union’s position is unreasonably high and made repeated references to BCTF demands for massage therapy benefits – a request that was dropped in recent weeks – and a $5,000 signing bonus that would cost the province more than $150 million.

Clark gave no indication of how long the government is prepared to let the strike continue or if classes might reopen under an essential services designation on the basis of damage to students’ education.

Fassbender has vowed the government won’t legislate the teachers back to work this time.

The strike began with rotating walkouts in the spring and turned into a complete school shutdown in mid-June.

There were virtually no negotiations through the summer until a last-minute effort at exploratory talks led by mediator Vince Ready began last week.

Ready walked out on Saturday, declaring an impasse with the two sides too far apart for mediation to be productive.

Clark said the eventual deal with teachers must be fair – giving them a deserved raise but also respecting that other unionized workers have accepted the government’s economic mandate offer on wages.

“The teachers union needs to come to the table with a proposal that is realistic,” Clark told reporters. “For heaven’s sake, 150,000 other public sector employees who work just as hard have settled for far less. They didn’t get a $5,000 signing bonus. They didn’t get unlimited massage. They didn’t get an extra day off every year.”

In fact, the massage demand, when it was still on the table, was for a maximum of $3,000 per year on a doctor’s prescription.

Iker insisted the BCTF is close to the government on wages and made significant concessions in recent weeks.

The government offer is seven per cent over six years, while the union wants eight per cent over five years.

“We could have got a deal this past weekend if government was willing to move.”

Iker said the signing bonus demand is “negotiable” and reiterated his call for Clark to meet him directly.

Iker repeatedly criticized the government for committing money to priorities other than education, including the new B.C. Place stadium roof, a payout to a California utility to settle lawsuits against BC Hydro, and now the $40-a-day payments to parents.

He estimated the extra money needed to fund the BCTF demands represents $3 per day per student.

“They have $40 a day right now to keep kids out of school. It’s about choices.”

But the province says the combined wages and benefits demand is still nearly twice what other public sector unions have accepted.

Overhanging the talks is the government’s pending appeal of the latest court ruling on class size and composition, slated to be heard in mid-October.

Iker again called on the government to drop its insistence on a clause that would let it “nullify” another ruling in favour of teachers.

Clark was asked if it’s possible to overcome the animosity stemming from the stripping of the teachers’ contract in 2002 when she was education minister.

“I think we can and I think we have to,” she said. “We all have to get past the emotion here.”

The province has offered a $75-million Learning Improvement Fund to help address special needs but the union wants much more for special needs and to settle grievances.

Clark said the government’s offer adds up to $375 million to improve class composition with more teachers and CUPE support staff.

VIDEO: BCTF president Jim Iker responds to Premier Christy Clark, government

FULL VIDEO: BCTF responds to Premier’s statement

Just Posted

Opioids, meth, firearms seized at known Chilliwack drug house

Home on Broadway Street raided on Feb. 15 where homicide occurred Jan. 31

GW Graham basketball girls savour Fraser Valley championship

It’s been a long wait for the Grizzlies, who lost the FV title game the last two seasons.

Chilliwack Curling Club holding open house

If you’ve ever wanted to try the sport, the club invites you to take the plunge this weekend.

Chilliwack MLA John Martin says NDP budget will hurt business, punish taxpayers

‘Family-owned businesses will struggle to respond to this’

Chilliwack-Kent MLA decries ‘classic, big tax-and-spend’ NDP budget

Laurie Throness says budget relies on strong economy but contains no ideas to help it grow

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

Team USA beats Canada 3-2 on the shootout to take home Olympic gold

Americans win their first gold medal since 1998

Two Haida men detained for crossing U.S.-Canada border

Edenshaw and Frisby travelled from Alaska to Prince Rupert for the All Native Basketball Tournament

Alberta takes out full-page ads in B.C. over strained relationship

It’s the latest move between the two provinces over progress on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

B.C. teacher suspended over allegedly using N-word in worksheets

Trafalgar Elementary teacher under investigation by Vancouver School Board

Toddler swept away in Ontario floods

Toddler missing as flooding forces thousands from their homes in Ontario

BC BUDGET: New money helps seniors’ care shortage

Job stability for care aides key to recruitment, union leader says

Mixed messages on B.C.’s efforts to cool hot housing market

Economist says undersupply of homes in Metro Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna will keep prices high

Foot found near Victoria belonged to missing Washington man

Coroner says no foul play suspected in death of 79-year-old Stanley Okumoto

Most Read