BCTF president Jim Iker, left, B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender, centre, and the B.C. government's chief negotiator Peter Cameron, right, all met on Wednesday. CBC
With just days to go before the scheduled start of the school year, a meeting between B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender and teachers' union president Jim Iker has failed to settle their long-running contract dispute.
Leaving the meeting, Peter Cameron, the government's chief negotiator, said two major issues were raised at the meeting, the B.C. teachers' legal grievance and the ongoing strikes and lockout.
After a decade of court battles, the provincial government is still appealing a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that it violated teachers' rights when it stripped them of specific bargaining provisions in 2002.
Cameron told reporters outside the meeting on Wednesday the minister suggested a truce, opening schools, entering mediated talks and "parking" the teachers' grievance issue.
A short while earlier, B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker told reporters outside the meeting there were no real new ideas offered in the meeting.
Iker also said he wants mediation to begin and says it's up to veteran mediator Vince Ready to call parties together.
Professional mediator Ready agreed earlier this month to work with the groups, but also said he can't start working until teachers and government are closer to agreeing to terms.
Meanwhile, Minister Fassbender echoed Cameron's description of the meeting, saying he had proposed putting the strikes on hold for two weeks and entering mediation as soon as Ready called the parties together.
Fassbender said halting the strikes for two weeks would give Ready enough time to try to mediate a deal but Fassbender says Iker had told him he would need to hold a union vote first.
Summer of silence
The meeting in Victoria comes after a summer of limited discussions and media blackouts, and could give renewed hope to parents expecting the ongoing teachers' strike to delay the start of the new school year.
The province's 40,000 public school teachers began the strike two weeks before the end of the last school year, calling for higher wages and more control over class sizes and composition.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation president got a standing ovation at the union's summer leadership conference on Sunday, when he said teachers are ready to enter into mediation, if only the province would agree to make it happen.
"My message to the minister today and his rhetoric of 24/7 bargaining is let's see it. How about tomorrow? Let's get this deal done," Iker said on Sunday.
"The holdout has been government and their unwillingness to enter full-scale mediation and compromise...We're ready to negotiate anytime. We've been ready all summer."
In the meantime, the BCTF has said a rotating picket schedule will be in effect again at schools across the province this week, with picket lines going up in Vancouver, Langley and Kamloops on Monday.
Classes at B.C. public schools were scheduled to resume Sept. 2 for the start of the 2014-15 school year. The government has promised to pay parents $40 per school-aged child for every school day that is missed due to the strike.
During his speech Sunday, Iker called the province's $40-a-day offer a "bribe" and said it has been "incredibly unhelpful."
The government has promised it will not legislate teachers back to work and has warned parents to be prepared for children to be out of school until the contract dispute is settled.
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