Are teachers asking too much, or is government giving too little?
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
Despite continued efforts by both the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the BC Liberal government over the past week, both parties have still failed to come to an agreement.
During the last issue of the Other Press, the BCTF and members of BC’s Liberal government had started talks with mediator Vince Ready. On August 31, Ready walked away from the table, saying to CBC, “I don’t see a resolution here before the start of school given the positions of the parties … They are a long, long ways apart.”
Prior to Ready’s departure, associated press revealed that the BCTF were willing to drop roughly $125-million in demands regarding wages and benefits in an attempt to end the strike. However, BCTF president Jim Iker said to the Globe and Mail, “Unfortunately, the government did not indicate they were willing to make any meaningful moves in return.”
In response, BC Education Minister Peter Fassbender has stated that the BCTF are the party that will not meet halfway. In a public statement released on August 30, Fassbender stated, “Unfortunately, the BCTF leadership has stubbornly refused every effort to reach a fair deal.”
Fassbender added that legislating the teachers back to work is in no one’s best interests: “It would only keep us on the same dysfunctional treadmill that we’ve been on for the past 30 years. As hard as it is, we have to stand firm and hope the union leadership comes around to getting serious about negotiating a fair agreement.”
As reported by the National Post, the BCTF has requested an annual $225-million regarding class size, where the amount would partially be spent on hiring more teachers. An additional $225-million, to be spent over the course of five years, was requested regarding the BCTF’s two Supreme Court wins against the BC government.
In an interview with the National Post, Fassbender stated that, “There is still over $300-million of gap between [the BCTF and] what the government has put on the table.”
On September 5, in an attempt to end the strike, Iker made a public statement indicating that teachers would be willing to return to schools if the government agreed to arbitration, contingent upon the government dropping E80—one of the main contention points in the dispute.
Fassbender responded at his own press events that same afternoon, reiterating the government’s stance on binding arbitration: “We are not prepared to say to someone else, well you make our decisions for us.”