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Minister of Education believes parties too far apart for mediation

Mark Brett/Black Press Locked out workers, left to right, Steve Grant and Grant Prothero in front of Penticton Secondary School Wednesday were hoping for good news concerning the current labour dispute with the provincial government. - Mark Brett/Penticton Western News
Mark Brett/Black Press Locked out workers, left to right, Steve Grant and Grant Prothero in front of Penticton Secondary School Wednesday were hoping for good news concerning the current labour dispute with the provincial government.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Penticton Western News

Minister of Education Peter Fassbender said the parties in the teachers dispute are "too far apart for mediation at this time."

"I'm very disappointed for students, parents and teachers. What should be a time of excitement and anticipation will instead be marked by frustration and uncertainty," said Fassbender in a press release on Saturday. "I wish I could tell British Columbians when students will be back in school. But right now, I don't see any quick or easy solutions."

He claims the BCTF leadership "has stubbornly refused every effort to reach a fair deal." And, that they have refused to give teachers a chance to vote on suspending the pickets while an agreement is mediated.

"The gap is much bigger than what the BCTF has been making it out to be, which was that the parties were close on all matters except class size and composition. Over the past few days, it's been a very different story behind closed doors," said Fassbender.

B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker said they are still determined to get a deal before Sept. 2 so schools can open. But after two days of work with veteran mediator Vince Ready, Iker said it has become clear the government is not prepared to find a fair settlement.

"The BCTF team tried to kick start meaningful talks by dropping some proposals entirely and reducing others substantially. In total, our moves today reduced our package by $125 million. Unfortunately, the government did not indicate they were willing to make any meaningful moves in return," said Iker.

On Sunday Iker called upon Premier Christy Clark to meet with him to help reach a settlement before Sept. 2.

On Friday Marieze Tarr, chair of the Okanagan Similkameen school district, advised they are encouraged that the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association were meeting.

"However, we do not have confirmation that schools will be open on Tuesday, Sept. 2. Consequently, at this point we ask parents and guardians to plan other arrangements for their children effective Tuesday, Sept. 2," she said in a press release.

Wendy Hyer, superintendent of schools for the Okanagan Skaha school district also suggested on Friday that parents should find alternate arrangements for their children should there be no settlement.

Penticton parent Shaunna Murray is busying herself organizing a protest on Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the park on Main Street between the public library and Penticton Secondary School. She said the protest is about taking a stand for their kids and not about which side in the dispute is right or wrong.

A website has been established for parent information by the Ministry of Education at bcparentinfo.ca to provide information about the stipend of $40 per day for parents of students under the age of 13 if the dispute continues.

Parents and primary caregivers can start registering their children Aug. 31 either on the website or by calling 1-877-387-3332. Payments will be processed within 30 days after the month that the labour disruption ends.

Payments for students attending kindergarten, and for students who are new to B.C. public schools, will also be made after the labour disruption ends, once enrolment for the current school year can be confirmed.

To register parents and primary caregivers will need to provide the name, address, date of birth, school district number and school for each eligible student.

Eligible parents will have four months from the end of the month in which the labour disruption is settled to register for the temporary education support. No new registrations will be accepted after this date.

The payment is not taxable and will not affect provincial and federal tax credits and benefits. It will also not impact other provincial support assistance such as income or disability assistance, child care subsidy, subsidized housing, MSP subsidies or Fair Pharmacare.

 

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