B.C. education minister pans binding arbitration to end teachers’ strike

Government tells union to return to bargaining with something affordable.


VANCOUVER — A concessionary proposal by British Columbia’s striking teachers on Friday pledging to start the school year if the province agreed to binding arbitration was swept aside by government, which firmly told the union to return to bargaining with something affordable.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender responded negatively to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s suggestion that both sides relinquish control of contract decisions, meaning the ongoing strike appears likely to drag into its second week of the fall term.

“I do not relish giving over our responsibility to a third party to make the decision,” Fassbender told reporters in Victoria.

“I challenge the BCTF again to work with us … and to be willing to make the hard decisions and take that forward to their membership.”

Union president Jim Iker announced the offer earlier in the day over a live-streamed news conference, watched by a myriad of teachers breaking from four days of picketing to discuss the labour action that went full-tilt last spring.

He pitched the arbitration even while acknowledging government officials had previously shot the option down.

“I’m hoping government will change its mind on this, because it’s the fastest way to resolve this,” Iker told reporters. “We’ll recommend it to our members and we can be back to work.”

It’s the first time the union has proposed such a settlement method in its decades of combative history with B.C. governments of all stripes.

Had the union executive received an affirmative response, it would have immediately called a vote among striking teachers that could have reopened schools for half-a-million students sometime next week.

Instead, masses of teachers, their supporting unions and members of the opposition New Democrats rallied in downtown Vancouver Friday evening, forcing police to cordon off the street in front of Premier Christy Clark’s office.

“I mean where do I begin,” a chuckling Iker asked the crowd of cheering teachers. “I mean how about agreeing to binding arbitration, right?”

He said teachers must remain united to move forward and win the labour struggle.

“You know if the government agrees to arbitration we will hold a provincewide vote to end this strike,” he said. “Haven’t they been asking about giving our members a vote?

“Well, give us a reason to give us a vote.”

NDP Leader John Horgan said members of the teachers’ union has rights that were hard fought for and they shouldn’t give them up.

“To Mr. Fassbender I say you failed at negotiation, you don’t understand mediation, you couldn’t spell arbitration, so how about resignation,” he told the crowd, ending by saying the teachers should keep up their action.

“We’ve got your back,” he said.

Binding arbitration would involve the two sides mutually agreeing on a person who would hammer out contract details that everyone would be compelled to accept.

Earlier in the day, Iker said the union was prepared to relinquish control of several demands, including decisions around compensation, benefits and preparation time, although he stipulated there were some pre-conditions about how to handle the most contentious issues.

The government would have to agree to separately negotiate a fund that would add new money to school budgets for addressing class size and composition, in a process apart from the main collective agreement, he said.

The government must also drop clause “E80,” a provision dealing with class size, and learning and working conditions. A connecting clause states that if either side is unsatisfied with the outcome of a pending court case they could terminate the collective agreement.

The teachers’ federation has twice won decisions from the B.C. Supreme Court stating the government illegally removed the union’s rights to bargain classroom limits and ratios back in 2002, when now Premier Christy Clark was education minister. An appeal of the most recent court decision will be heard starting October.

Fassbender did not “categorically” reject arbitration, but said the province had previously had a bad experience with that option, referring to a costly dispute with B.C. doctors more than a decade ago.

In 2002, the B.C. Liberals hiked the Provincial Sales Tax to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars awarded to the doctors by an arbitrator.

“This government will not raise taxes in order to provide a settlement to one union that does not reflect what the other public sector (workers) have done,” Fassbender said.

Union officials admitted their proposal could risk removing pressures around class size and composition issues, but said the tactic seeks to hold Clark to comments made earlier this week.

On Wednesday, the premier began calling classroom composition “the single most important issue.”

The union has proposed a fund of $225 million in new money to hire additional teachers and specialists. The government has said its current $75 million annual fund is sufficient.


B.C. education minister pans binding arbitration to end teachers’ strike

  1. Teachers are getting 82,000/yr and seeking in excess of 90,000. They have 14 vacation weeks a year, PLUS multiple days a month for “sick leave” AND now they are demanding an additonaly 8 days for whatever they want. They have a PRO DAY every month, that most dont show up to, or sign in and are back home to enjoy a long weekend at least once a month. They want a 5,000 signing bonus because they had an extra month off this summer. To make matters worse they are asking parents to donate money to their union fund. Seriously, get real teachers. Practice what you preach and get back to work for the kids, instead of demanding unlimited massages.

    • i think the teacher should get back to work and let the kids to be happy with their friend and they shouldn’t have a long year strike everybody is looking forward to school and i am looking forward to school this year to see all of mine friend and i want to learn more English before i graduate i have one more year left before graduating hope everybody can get back to school as soon as possible

  2. Jeff, I think perhaps you’ve been hired by the Liberals or perhaps you’ve been sleeping over the past 3 months…your information is as accurate as Christy’s or is she your trusting source? Teachers actually work from the beginning of September to the very end of June. Unlike many jobs, a teacher’s job does not end at the 3pm bell…if it did we would be hourly paid like all the other union workers in BC. We often spend many extra hours per day completing tasks that are necessary to the job…it’s called being a teacher. If you don’t understand this, shadow a teacher for a few days and learn something. Regarding our big holidays during the school year, these are times when families don’t have their kids in school…in other words…the school’s are closed, there are no students…do you sit in an empty office? Also, regarding taking summers off…there’s also no school during these times either, schools are closed for summer and teachers in the summer; however, many are usually back to school by mid August preparing for the fall…do you go to work intermittently for no pay? Probably not. Regarding Professional Development Days (ProD), these are days full of work shops to keep teachers updated to this ever changing world…doctors actually do something very similar to this…it’s called upgrading and modernizing? Regarding most teachers not showing up for ProD…this doesn’t happen unless a teacher is home sick…you get sick sometimes don’t you? The signing bonus? Fassbender offered a bonus, and the fact that teachers have received no wage increases for several years was probably the reason for such a demand. However, if the $5,000 meant so much, why have teachers given up more than $7,000 during the strike so far? The reason why the strike has not ceased is actually bill E80 that Christy and Fassbender will not be honest about…simply it omits their unconstitutional actions towards public education since 2002 and neutralizes any further court decision against the Liberals regarding education. Additionally, why does the BCTF have no more money? It’s mostly been invested in court fees trying to bring back what the Liberals have unconstitutionally stripped from the public education system since 2002. Where has the education money been invested you ask? Probably the new highway to Whistler…ask Christy about where the cut funds have gone. Also ask her why Campbell nearly sold the Coquihalla Hwy until the public stopped him. Christy’s mentioning about unlimited massages was not unlimited, and taken off the bargaining table before Christy actually brought it up. Christy brought this up to further stir the pot and keep this dispute from ending. She doesn’t care much for teachers or the public education system and why should she? Her son goes to private school where class size and composition have limits. Also, Jeff ask yourself, why should tax payer’s contribute towards private schools that charge an excess of $25,000 per student…does this also make sense? Why does our ministers credit cards exceed millions of dollars in personal billing that we pay for? Why did the Liberals spend 514 million dollars on a new roof on BC Place Stadium, while there are hundreds of old hospitals and schools in the province that desperately require upgrades, yet there’s no money? Instead of picking on teachers, who seem to be the only group currently standing up to these bullies, perhaps you should start looking into Liberal activities? This government apparently has some very special goals that they do not disclose to the public. Jeff, how can one say there’s no money for medical care and education, but there’s half a billion on a sports arena roof? Does this make sense?

    • Joseph,

      Teachers have 10 weeks off during the summer, 2 weeks off at Christmas, 2 weeks off during Spring Break – do the math!! and NO, I dont get that kind of vacation, I get 4 weeks holidays, have a Bachelor’s Degree and make 58,000 a year. I only wish I had what you have. Furthermore, my sister-in-law is an elementary school teacher. I know exactly how much time she puts into being a teacher. Never has she gone back in mid August…End of August, yes…but of course she has days off during the school year to cover for those 2 days before the long weekend she took to prepare her classrom – as you very well know. And who is talking about a sports arena roof? We are discussing teachers, their wages, and them getting back to work for the kids that they are apparently so passionate for. The province is sick and tired of all the complaining from the teachers. Asking for donations, setting up food banks (1 week into the strike…lol)…as I have mentioned before, teachers can work during the summer in summer schools to help those kids that need it. Why cant they just take 2 weeks during the spring, 4 weeks during the summer, and 2 weeks at Christmas??? they would still have double the time off that everyone else does. But no, they want 14 weeks off, multiple days off during the year…my son has a long weekend once a month, in addition to the true long weekend of the month…his teachers are always away on sick days – yet, I will see them outside doing yardwork…give us all a break teachers!!!!

      • Jeff,
        I have worked retail and even industry for several years before entering teaching. I am not trying to insult you, but the hours spent doing the job is far more than you really know. If your sister-in-law is done at 3:00 pm and doesn’t spend extra time outside of school, she is actually part of a teaching minority. I am not complaining about my job, or the investment of hours, but I’m a little tired that we get it so good. Did you know that half of the people who enter teaching quit within 5 years? It is very rewarding, but is not without challenges. Many teachers, including myself are quite drained by June, still in teaching mode till mid July and back in the school by mid August. Please also keep in mind that unlike most government employees, we are salary employees, not hourly ones…why is that do you think? This issue is not over holidays, or actually over wages, for the wage offer by the government back in May was extremely close to what the union wanted…the $5,000 demand was a bargaining tool often used in negotiations…no teacher actually asked for it. This strike is over bill E80 and how the Liberal government is attempting to crawl away from their negative actions toward education in 2002. Their actions twice has been ruled as unconstitutional by the BC Supreme Court…meaning, they have been doing things above the law. Having a majority government should not grant a dictatorship…also, what they have done was not for the public’s best interest either…this was for personal agendas only. Honestly Jeff, this should not even be the teacher’s fight, for the government’s job is to protect public education, not to further push for privatization. You seem to be a passionate individual Jeff, perhaps you should go back for one more year and become a teacher yourself…the kids will appreciate your character.

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