Penticton schools were behind picket lines again this week

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin. (Black Press Media file photos)
MLA’s CORNER: Premier Horgan needs to work harder

There are lots of people out there who are in desperate need of assistance

The first Chimney Creek Roadhouse, constructed in 1864. (Photo courtesy of the B.C. Provincial Archives)
HAPHAZARD HISTORY: The Isnardy family of Williams Lake

Amadee Isnardy was born in 1840 near Nice, France

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.
FOREST INK: Ecological economics not a popular topic for most people

The following is a review of the no (or slow) growth concept

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

Most Read