Minister rejects teacher’s near-unanimous vote

Teachers voted nearly unanimously to proceed to binding arbitration in their dispute with the B.C. government, which wants no part of it.

Teachers have voted nearly unanimously to proceed to binding arbitration in their dispute with the B.C. government, which wants no part of it.

Members of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation on Wednesday voted 99.4 per cent in favour of a proposal to enter arbitration with a neutral third-party and reopen schools.

“If we are going to get a deal and get schools open, the government must show some good faith,” BCTF president Jim Iker said in a statement after the results were released. “Arbitrate, mediate, or negotiate. It’s time to put public education first.”

In his own statement issued Thursday, Education Minister Peter Fassbender dismissed the result of the vote as “widely expected and understandable,” and said reopening schools “is a goal we all share.”

“As we have consistently made clear, binding arbitration would lead to unacceptable tax increases in this case. That’s because the two sides remain too far apart on wages and benefits,” Fassbender said. “The best way to resolve this labour dispute remains at the negotiating table.”

Meanwhile, the B.C. Federation of Labour announced this week that it had co-ordinated contributions from a  number of unions that will be used to fund $8 million in interest-free hardship loans for teachers. Leaders of 13 public sector unions also penned a letter to Premier Christy Clark calling on her to agree to binding arbitration with teachers.