B.C. teachers, employer suspend contract talks

Rotating strike action begins Monday

VANCOUVER — Last-chance negotiations before British Columbia’s public school teachers launch rotating job action next week were put on hold Friday while the two sides “reassess” their proposals.

Negotiators for the BC Teachers’ Federation and the employers group say they agreed together to put off talks for the day.

Peter Cameron, chief negotiator with the BC Public School Employers’ Association, said they were still “in caucus” working things out, and disputed the term called off in reference to Friday’s suspension of negotiations.

“We’ve said to the BCTF it’s urgent that we get on with real bargaining, but it’s impossible while (the union is) there asking for several times what anybody else got in the public sector,” he said in an interview on Vancouver radio station CKNW.

Cameron said a settlement is urgent, but added that was impossible given the union demands.

The government is offering a 7.25 per cent wage increase over six years, while the province says the teachers want 15.9 per cent over four years.

Cameron said they didn’t want to insult teachers, so the association came with an offer similar to what other public sector unions have settled for, but the union is still making “extreme” requests.

“They’ve basically sat there with a position that is completely outrageous. You know 21.5 per cent over four years is not remotely similar to the pattern,” he said of the teachers wage and benefit package.

Rich Overgaard, of the BC Teachers’ Federation, said the union can’t be expected to be the only one that moves and government must change its position on class size, composition of those classes and wages.

Scheduled negotiations are set for next Monday for three days, the same day teachers launch the first of four days of rotating strikes across the province.

Tensions between the two sides mushroomed this week as teachers announced job action, while the government imposed a partial lockout, limiting teacher’s time in schools and warning of full-scale lockouts at the end of June.