Penticton schools were behind picket lines again this week

BCTF, Fassbender meet as teachers strike threatens to delay school start

Meeting comes on cusp of new school year as government, union spar over mediation, escape hatch from next court ruling

B.C. students are just days away from the scheduled start of a new school year but  there’s little sign of a break in the teachers strike that has dragged on through the summer.

The final week of summer holiday opened Sunday with a demand in Kamloops from B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim Iker for an immediate start to mediation.

No formal bargaining dates are scheduled, but Iker, Education Minister Peter Fassbender and government negotiator Peter Cameron are meeting today in Victoria, raising hopes for some movement.

Teachers have also stepped up picketing as both sides prepare for the strike to stretch into September.

A mass rally outside the premier’s Vancouver cabinet offices is also set for Sept. 5.

Veteran mediator Vince Ready is monitoring the talks and has indicated he will step into full mediation if it would be productive to do so.

Both sides blame the other for a gulf between positions that’s too wide for Ready to attempt to bridge.

The province says the teachers’ pay and benefits demands remain far in excess of settlements reached with other public sector unions.

Teachers, meanwhile, accuse the government of insisting on preconditions to talks that would unravel the union’s past court victories over the province on the stripping of contract terms on class size and special needs support.

The province is appealing the latest court ruling against it.

Also gaining prominence in recent days has been an opt-out clause that the government has tabled that would allow either side to terminate a new collective agreement if it dislikes the ultimate court outcome from either the B.C. Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada.

An education ministry spokesman said he was surprised it has become an issue now.

It was disclosed in mid-June by government negotiators who pitched it as a “pragmatic and creative” way to give the union comfort it wouldn’t be handed a massive defeat in court and could therefore shelve those issues and negotiate an interim agreement while the appeal proceeds.

But a BCTF spokesman said it’s the province not teachers who want an escape hatch, adding it suggests the government fears it will lose in court again and is seeking to block that outcome.

He credited BCTF members on Twitter for bringing the clause into public focus.

The Liberal government has promised to pay parents $40 a day for each child under 13 who misses school if the strike continues.

Various organizations and businesses are scaling up their day camp and other supervised care offerings for September in anticipation of a continued school shutdown.

The province also promised Tuesday to cover supported child development costs for in-school hours for special needs children now accessing services.

Fassbender on Monday reiterated the government’s position that it has no desire to legislate the teachers back to work.

The lumpsum payouts to parents following the end of the strike will consume all of the $12 million a day in strike savings the government would have amassed going forward.

Parents can sign up for the payments at bcparentinfo.ca, a government-created website that seeks to prepare parents for an ongoing strike this fall.

Just Posted

“Does Kirby care?” Heiltsuk Nation using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

“No excuse” for killing of two young grizzly cubs

Reader hopeful someone will come forward with information

UPDATE: U.S. firm fined $2.9M for fuel spill that soiled B.C. First Nation territory

The Nathan E. Stewart spilled 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in October 2016

No delivery services hard on local families

New parents Candace Knudsen and Bjorn Samuelsen spent five weeks away from home

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been sold

Victoria company has purchased BCHL team, but will keep it in Port Alberni

Justin Trudeau’s carbon footprint revealed in ranking of world leaders

Travel company ranks 15 world leaders’ foreign flight CO2 emissions

Trudeau announces $79M investment for 118 more public transit buses across B.C.

Contributions from municipal to federal level to fund more buses in a bid to cut commutes

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Two toddler siblings found drowned on First Nation in Alberta

The siblings were found drowned on their family’s property, according to RCMP

Most Read