Peter Fassbender addresses Surrey constituents over teacher dispute

SURREY — A day after teachers and supporters held a rally outside of Education Minister Peter Fassbender’s office, the Surrey-Fleetwood MLA spoke with the Now in order to reach out to his constituents about the current teachers dispute.

“Your readers are my constituents so I wanted to give you a clear a picture of where we stand today and where I believe we can go in order to move ahead and solve this impasse that we’re in,” said Fassbender Wednesday.

Asked what his message is to local parents and teachers he said, “My message to them is that I put an offer on the table to the president of the teachers’ union that would have seen them in schools yesterday with kids in classes. Their executive of their union chose to not look them in the eye and tell them what that proposal was and give them a chance to express their opinion. I’m disappointed by that because BCPSEA (the employers group) did indeed send me a letter indicating they were willing to lift the lockout provisions if we could get to the place where mediation was deemed to be warranted by the mediator.”

Fassbender also said he wanted to clear the air about what he saw a misrepresentation of the situation by the BCTF regarding mediation.

“I think the really important thing here that people need to understand… (is) that neither party can force mediation to happen. It is the mediator that decides that the parties are close enough for mediation to be warranted.”

As for mediation, Fassbender said while he hasn’t spoken with Vince Ready personally, as that would be a conflict of interest, he’s heard that Ready is prepared to stay involved.

“What I do know is that he’s said he’ll stay in touch with the parties and if they can come closer to where they need to be, he is prepared to stay engaged and even step in a full mediation role if we’re close enough.”

To do that, Fassbender implores the BCTF to “come to a realistic approach on wages and benefits" in line with what he says 150,000 other public service members have settled for in B.C.

“If they would become realistic with their wage and benefit demands, that would increase the chances of mediation significantly.”

Finally, in response to calls for his resignation from teachers and the NDP, many of which were recited during Tuesday’s rally, Fassbender said he isn’t going anywhere.

“No. I’m doing the job the premier has given me. I have the full support of the premier, our cabinet and our caucus. I continue to do that job and I’m doing it on behalf of every student, every parent and quite honestly, every teacher and taxpayer in this province.

“I’m the only person in this issue that has to weigh all of the competing priorities of all of those people. That’s why I’m encouraging the BCTF to get realistic in their wage and benefit demands and that’s why, when I saw a report that they may be prepared to do a vote on whether they should suspend their strike action, I hope they look their members in the eye and say that would be a mechanism for them to get paid and bring us back to the negotiating table.”

Twitter @Questionchris

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