Veteran mediator Vince Ready has declined to wade into the labour dispute between B.C. teachers and the provincial government.
B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker and Peter Cameron, the province's chief negotiator, received word late Sunday afternoon that Mr. Ready is simply too busy to mediate.
(Read up on the issues and history of the education labour dispute with our explainer Q&A.)
The BCTF's executive committee was scheduled to meet late Sunday and was expected to explore other options. The union says it is still hoping for mediation.
Mr. Ready is widely considered one of Canada's top labour troubleshooters and the teachers union floated his name as someone who could move things forward.
But Mr. Cameron cautioned that if the union doesn't change its monetary demands mediation would be pointless.
The government says teachers want wage increases and benefits amounting to a 14.5 per cent hike, but educators say they only want an eight per cent salary boost and a signing bonus.
Teachers also want the province to set aside $225-million every year for a fund to hire teachers.
Efforts to settle the dispute ran onto the rocks on Friday when the Mark Brown, the independent facilitator who spent more than a year trying to broker a deal, resigned.
Also on Friday, the B.C. Public School Employers' Association issued a press release accusing the BCTF's request for Mr. Ready's involvement to be "motivated by public relations rather than a genuine desire for successful mediation."
"The usual and appropriate way to arrive at consensual mediation and a named mediator is by way of discussion with the bargaining agent, in this case BCPSEA -- not by way of a heads up shortly before a press release," the association said.
"If the union had followed the usual labour relations practice, the parties could have determined issues such as the availability of Mr. Ready and other prospective mediators so we could move this forward in an expeditious manner."
The same day, the BCPSEA had run a full-page newspaper wrap with a local daily saying a wage increase for teachers has to be affordable.
Teachers have now been on a full-scale strike at B.C. public schools for one week, affecting half a million students.
With a report from the Canadian Press