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Premier Christy Clark answers questions from members of the media in February 19, 2014. (Rafal Gerszak For The Globe and Mail)
Premier Christy Clark answers questions from members of the media in February 19, 2014. (Rafal Gerszak For The Globe and Mail)

Premier wades into strike feud with tweets blaming B.C. Teachers' Federation for impasse Add to ...

Premier Christy Clark sent out a series of tweets Sunday blaming the B.C. Teachers’ Federation for the delay of the school year in a move the teachers’ union says has further strained the tense relationship between the two sides.

Glen Hansman, first vice-president of the teachers’ union, called the comments "crass" and said they are a clear demonstration of the B.C. Liberal government’s contempt for teachers.

"It's appalling that she would so cavalierly make those sorts of public statements on Twitter," Mr. Hansman said. "I don’t know who’s handling her account for her but they need to give their head a shake and rethink what they’re doing and get back [to the table]."

A number of Twitter users took issue with the Premier’s comments. Children’s singer Raffi Cavoukian blamed Ms. Clark for the cancellation of classes and replied “nobody believes you” to an earlier tweet from the Premier asserting the government is committed to negotiating a fair deal.

Talks between the teachers’ union and the government’s bargaining arm, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, broke down Saturday. Prominent mediator Vince Ready, who had been overseeing the negotiations, said he was temporarily withdrawing himself from the process because the two parties were too far apart to benefit from his involvement. The teachers’ federation said it was planning to talk to Mr. Ready again on Monday or Tuesday.

The province’s 40,000 public school teachers went on strike in mid-June after staging various levels of escalating job action, including several weeks of rotating walkouts. The last two weeks of school were cancelled as a result of the strike, leaving parents scrambling to find alternate arrangements.

One of the main issues at stake is a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling that said the government acted illegally when it stripped provisions around class size and composition from teachers’ collective agreements in 2002, removing their ability to bargain on those issues. The government has appealed the ruling.

On Sunday, Education Minister Peter Fassbender said classes would not be starting on Tuesday as planned because a $300-million gulf remains between teachers’ demands and the government’s latest offer.

However, Mr. Fassbender maintained that the government will not table back-to-work legislation as it has in the past because it is looking to break out of the cycle of legislated settlements that has poisoned relations between the two sides.

The government is offering parents $40 a day per child 12 and under for each day that classes are cancelled, to help pay for child care or tutoring. The money will come from the government’s savings due to not having to pay teachers’ salaries during the strike. Cheques will start going out after the labour disruption has ended, the finance ministry has said.

A website that allows parents to sign up to receive the subsidy went live Sunday but many families trying to access the site were met with error messages – an issue the education ministry said it was working to resolve.

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