Another mediator declines job

Joint statement of BCPSEA and BCTF on exploratory discussions
VANCOUVER – The British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) have issued the following joint statement on the outcome of their recent exploratory discussions:

“The BCPSEA and the BCTF agreed that Mr. Justice Stephen Kelleher would be an acceptable mediator. He had some exploratory discussions with the parties and determined that mediation is not indicated at this time.

“The parties appreciate the Supreme Court making him available.”

Education Minister Peter Fassbender’s statement on the status of negotiations
VICTORIA – Education Minister Peter Fassbender has released the following statement on the status of negotiations between the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF):
“Over the past few days BCPSEA and the BCTF engaged in exploratory discussions with Justice Stephen Kelleher to determine whether the time was right for mediation.

“It was recognized that if the parties were in the same zone, mediation might help land a settlement. Unfortunately, through these exploratory discussions it became explicitly clear that the BCTF executive would not commit to tabling a set of demands that fall in the same affordability zone as the other public sector agreements reached to date.

“Justice Kelleher found that mediation is not indicated at this time. “Our government has a fundamental commitment to balance the budget and we have an obligation to deal fairly with all 300,000 B.C. public sector workers. “However, the BCTF continues to demand total compensation gains that are more than twice what other unions have settled for. On top of that, they are also pushing for hundreds of millions more each year in other contract demands.

“There is no process and no mediator that can bridge this gap at this time. To pretend otherwise only raises false expectations and serves to delay the tough decisions the BCTF executive needs to make to get to an affordable agreement.

“BCPSEA stands ready to negotiate anytime over the summer, with or without a mediator, whenever the BCTF is ready to commit to a fair and affordable settlement. “Let’s hope that the BCTF executive does not take all summer to realize that the best possible deal for teachers is one that lands squarely in the same affordable zone as the settlements government has already reached with other public sector unions.”

Statement from BCTF President Jim Iker

For two weeks, BC teachers have been calling on government and the BC Public School Employers’ Association to enter mediation. For the past week, I have been meeting with BCPSEA’s Peter Cameron and Mr. Justice Stephen F. Kelleher of the BC Supreme Court in exploratory discussions. I am very grateful that the BC Supreme Court granted Justice Kelleher leave to facilitate these discussions and for his willingness to act as mediator.

Unfortunately, mediation at this time will not be productive. The government, by trying to impose a series of unworkable preconditions prior to entering into mediation, has not provided the flexibility required to make mediation work. The preconditions would have predetermined the outcome.

The BCTF has made a number of significant moves to bring the two sides closer together, including a salary proposal that puts the two sides within 1%. Teachers have been looking for government to respond with counterproposals that would improve learning conditions for students like class size, class composition, and staffing levels for specialist teachers.

Successful collective bargaining requires flexibility, an open mind, and a willingness to bring creative ideas to the table. Teachers called for mediation to help facilitate those kinds of ideas. However, the government insisted that teachers accept proposals that would limit bargaining before even entering mediation. When teachers proposed a compromise that would have brought the two sides even closer to make mediation work, the government rejected that compromise. That is not a fair or reasonable process.

The government wants teachers to accept wage demands before they will even disclose their new proposals on class size and composition. That is unacceptable. At no point during these exploratory talks did the government offer any new money for class size, class composition, or staffing levels for specialist teachers.

At this point, with the government maintaining entrenched positions that are unfair and unreasonable, mediation will not be able to move forward. We will keep the lines of communication open in July to restart bargaining if the government is ready to make a real effort and bring the necessary funding to the table. If not, BC teachers will try again in August, with the new school year looming, to reengage Justice Kelleher and the government in meaningful and fair mediation.

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