Veteran mediator Vince Ready agrees to help solve the teacher's dispute
Mediator Vince Ready is having a change of heart in the teachers dispute with the government.
After declining to get involved earlier, the veteran mediator has decided to make himself available in an attempt to end the labour dispute between B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, the bargaining agent for the government.
A joint statement from the BCTF and BCPSEA says Ready met separately with the parties on Wednesday and has indicated his availability this week and later in August.
The statement says Ready will monitor the situation and has agreed to resume exploratory talks, or even full mediation if he believes it will be productive.
Both the BCTF and BCPSEA have agreed not to engage in public discussion pending further discussions with Ready.
Silence is hopefully golden in the BCTF dispute with government
For the past few months the BC Teachers’ Federation and BCPSEA (B.C. Public School Employer’s Association), bargaining agent for the provincial government, have been squaring off in the media, each side blaming the other for the rift between the two parties and labour unrest that concluded the 2014 school term.
But the two parties resumed bargaining last Friday and what’s being heard from the negotiations is silence — which to many teachers, parents and students may be a positive sign.
“Personally I feel that any time talks resume during a dispute like this one, (there) is reason for guarded optimism,” Nelson and District Teachers Association president Paul Boscariol told The Nelson Daily.
“It is also beneficial a media blackout; let the bargaining happen at the bargaining table.”
This labour dispute began to heat up last May with rolling one-day walkouts across the province, before some 40,000 B.C. teachers walked off the job in June and ended the school year two weeks early.
BCTF President Jim Iker blamed the decision on the government’s refusal to budge on key issues, specifically class sizes and salary structures.
The government countered with their own rhetoric the BCTF proposals would bankrupt the provincial coffers.
After no agreement was reached by the end of the school year, talks broke off.
The province’s finance minister recently turned up the heat by announcing that parents with children under the age of 13 would receive a subsidy of $40 for every day the strike affects the school year.
The money would theoretically go toward the cost of tutors or day care.
The government estimated that some 300,000 students would be eligible for the subsidy, which would be paid out of the $12 million per day that the government would save from not paying the salaries of striking teachers.
To no one’s surprise, teachers were not jumping for joy with this posturing announcement by the finance minister.
“The offer of $40/child/day for children under the age of 13 speaks volumes of the government’s attitude towards education,” Boscariol blasted.
“(Public education) has been simplified to daycare.”
“What are they doing for the children aged 14-17?,” Boscariol adds.
“Where in this proposal does it address the children’s education?
“Parents should be railing against this idea and letting their trustees and MLAs know that a daycare stipend does nothing to address the fact that their children are not being educated.”
NDTA teachers have been picketting the Kootenay Lake School District Board office every Wednesday during the summer to keep a presence in the public during the summer.
It’s been suggested the two sides have until August 25 to reach a deal.
In a strategy document, the British Columbia School Trustees Association urges teachers to modify increases they are seeking, including their benefit requests, so that the overall compensation package falls within the range that was accepted by other public sector unions while asking the government to put all of the saving from the strike and lockout into the Learning Improvement Fund (LIF) to support students, student learning, and class size and composition.
The BCSTA deadline for a deal is August 31.
That would have school opening on time, on Tuesday, September 2.
Everyone involved can only hope the silence continues until a deal is reached.