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

Contempt charge against Balfour logging protesters dropped on technicality

A B.C. Supreme Court justice ruled Cooper Creek Cedar failed to file a contempt application

Jail time for driver involved in Castlegar road rampage

Sean Patrick Byrne caused havoc on Castlegar roads in November

Update: 75th annual Rossland-Trail Open crowns three-time champion

Kevin Hogg wins the Birchbank Golf Course’s 75th Rossland-Trail Open … again

RCMP renew request for help finding missing Nakusp man

Christopher Sanford was reported missing Aug. 5

Updated: Early-morning fire near Trail destroys travel trailer and van

An arson-trained RCMP investigator will examine the scene

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

Most Read