BCTF president Jim Iker and Education Minister Peter Fassbender hold duelling news conferences
B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker says his union has put forward a "fair and reasonable framework for a deal that would see improved learning conditions for our students on the first school day in September".
"However, two more days of bargaining have gone by with no progress or counter-offers from government and BCPSEA [B.C. Public School Employers' Association]," Iker said at a news conference this afternoon. "British Columbians expect their government to be reasonable and to be flexible. But we haven't seen any will from government on the key issues around the learning conditions of our students."
As a result, Iker has called on Premier Christy Clark to agree to the appointment of a mediator.
Iker's statement came not long after Education Minister Peter Fassbender spoke at a morning news conference in which he claimed that the employer had "tabled an affordable, creative, and comprehensive package to end the stalemate, get kids back in school, and create long-term stability for parents, students, and teachers."
The two news conferences didn't resolve the full-scale teachers strike, which is in its third day.
The BCTF is seeding a five-year contract with an eight percent salary increase and signing bonus.
The union is also seeking a $225-million "annual workload fund to address issues of class size, class composition, and staffing ratios as an interim measure" until a B.C. government appeal is heard of a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling.
In that ruling, Justice Susan Griffin concluded that the government tried to provoke a teachers strike.
The BCPSEA claims that the BCTF's demands amount to a 14.5 percent increase in total compensation over five years, which is well above public-sector collective agreements to date.
“That comprehensive offer for settlement included the special $1,200 signing bonus for a deal by June 30, an improved wage offer, guaranteed funding for class composition, and bridging provisions to address the court case," Fassbender said. “The comprehensive package is fully in line with the wage increases and affordable agreements already reached by nearly 150,000 public sector workers. It was not tabled lightly. It was made clear to the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation that we put our best possible offer on the table and it was aimed at concluding this round of bargaining."
Iker's statement noted that the courts have twice found that the government has infringed on teachers' constitutional rights by passing legislation to "strip $275 million out of our system per year from education".
"That has meant 12 years of cuts, larger classes, reduced support for children with special needs and less one-on-one time with our students," he said.
Iker also noted that the B.C. government funds education at $1,000 per student less than the Canadian average as a result of "Christy Clark's unconstitutional legislation".