There is some optimism as both sides in the B.C. teachers’ dispute employ their full bargaining teams when negotiations resume later this week.
Bargaining groups from the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Public School Employers’ Association haven’t met since contract talks broke down in late June.
“That is an encouraging sign to me because it’s the first time that the entire teams on both sides have met together, so I’m looking forward to seeing negotiations begin in earnest as of this Friday,” Education Minister Peter Fassbender told reporters Tuesday.
The minister said the government is prepared to bring some “additional concepts” to the table, and he is optimistic a negotiated settlement can be reached before school starts in September.
“I’ve heard through some of the media reports that the BCTF has said they’re prepared to come to the table with some creative ideas. The employer’s group is willing to come to the table as well,” he said.
The teachers’ federation vice-president Glen Hasman has said the union plans to propose some new ideas during negotiations this week, though he did not provide details.
B.C.’s 40,000 teachers launched a full-scale strike about two weeks before the end of the school year, calling for wage hikes and for the government to address issues such as class size and composition.
The union’s most recent proposal sought a salary hike and two multimillion-dollar funds to hire more teachers and resolve grievances, but provincial government officials have said the proposals are unaffordable when compared with other public sector workers.
Last week, B.C.’s finance minister announced a subsidy that would give parents $40 a day for child care, tutoring or other educational options for children under 13 if the strike extends into the school year. The money would come from the $12-million the government saves each day that teachers are not in the classroom.
Fassbender said the subsidy is meant to help offset costs to parents should the strike continue.
“We’ve been anxious to get at the table, to continue negotiations, and I think any position that’s taken causes everyone to think about the implications of a prolonged strike,” he said.