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

Ballenas Whalers high school football squads take down Belmont

Parksville teams score back-to-back shutout wins over Bulldogs

Qualicum Beach goalie at training camp with Montreal Canadiens

LaCouvee angling for spot with AHL Laval squad

Seven buildings proposed for waterfront development in Parksville

IAG Developments hosts second public open house to gather feedback

Regional District of Nanaimo losing forest, farm lands

Regional growth strategy report shows mixed results

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Coming Home: B.C. fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Professor Paul Evans says he served on Cameron Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee

B.C. police watchdog to investigate man’s head injury during RCMP arrest

Suspect fled on a bicycle and fell off when an officer attempted to stop him

Nanaimo company gets licence to test psychedelic drugs for therapy treatment

Salvation Botanicals interested in manufacturing, testing and research and development

‘A real shame’: B.C. MLA says factors behind Tolko mill closing should have been caught

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson said the industry is in bad shape across the province

VIDEO: Seniors at B.C. assisted living facility shocked by Oct. 1 eviction notice

Building owners terminate lease for McGuire Lake Congregate Living in Salmon Arm

Most Read