B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker has told reporters that Premier Christy Clark must get more involved in the teachers strike and employers lockout.
Iker made the statement at a news conference today (August 31). It came a day after the mediator, Vince Ready, said there was no point continuing trying to resolve the dispute because the two sides were too far apart.
"It's time for this government to take the issues of class size, class composition, learning specialist levels and respect for the courts seriously," Iker said. "The government's unwillingness to even consider new moves or put forward much-needed funding squandered another opportunity to get this deal done and get children and teachers back in the classrooms.
"That's why today, I'm calling on the premier, Christy Clark, to meet with me."
Iker also accused Education Minister Peter Fassbender and the B.C. Public Schools Employers' Association of spending time on a $40-per-day child-care-funding plan for parents rather than "preparing meaningful proposals" at the bargaining table.
"They even called on the parties to stand down on the lockout and job action if meaningful mediation took place," Iker said. "Unfortunately over this weekend, it became clear that those commitments and promises were hollow. The government and its bargaining agent, BCPSEA, were not ready or willing to get the job done."
He said that the BCTF scaled back its demands by $125 million this weekend. But Iker claimed that the BCPSEA was not willing to bring a single penny of new money.
"Last year, there were more than 16,000 classes that had four or more children with special needs in them," the BCTF president said. "There were 3,800 classes with seven or more. This past school year was the worst it's ever been for class composition."
Fassbender has already said that Iker won't get a face-to-face meeting with the premier.
The education minister has also accused the BCTF of trying to force the government to legislate an end to the dispute.
Iker denied this and pointed out that the premier was willing to get involved in the truckers' dispute.
The BCTF president also claimed that the government wants a clause in the contract nullifying the union's two victories in B.C. Supreme Court granting a legal right to bargain class size and composition.
"B.C. teachers will not bargain away everything the B.C. Supreme Court has already awarded us and we will not jeopardize any future court decision," Iker declared. "The government must back off that unreasonable request and invest money in the system now."
He said he couldn't say when public schools will resume.
"I'm hoping that it will be sooner rather than later," Iker stated.
He revealed that teachers are not receiving strike pay, but said there are hardship funds to help some members of the union.