Schools likely to remain closed on Tuesday

VANCOUVER — There won’t be any public school Tuesday, according to B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who said at a press conference Sunday that the government is not going to get back on the “treadmill” of legislating the B.C. Teachers Federation back to work from their strike/lockout.

Fassbender said repeatedly that he was disappointed with the situation but there was no indications when negotiations might resume in talks that broke down Saturday when veteran mediator Vince Ready walked away from the two sides in the dispute.

“Needless to say. I’m very disappointed for students and parents and teachers that I’m standing here today addressing an issue that I hoped would have a different outcome than we face,” he said.

The problem, said Fassbender, was money.

“The reality is there is still over $300 million of gap between what the government has put on the table that is in keeping with the other public section unions [received in contract agreements] and what the BCTF is asking for,” he said.

“If we were even to consider that, who should we take that money from? Health care? Other social services in the province?

“We have been clear we are not going to put our fiscal plan in this province into deficit to meet the unrealistic demands of the BCTF.”

BCTF president Jim Iker was not immediately available for comment but did issue a news release that called for Premier Christy Clark to meet with thim to “help reach a fair settlement” before the scheduled September 2 start of school.

“Over the weekend in talks with Vince Ready, the BCTF trimmed its package by $125 million,” said the statement., “By contrast the BC Public School Employers Association did not bring one penny to the table.”

“Furthermore, the government is insisting upon a court case escape clause, that would in effect nullify two class size and composition wins in the B.C. Supreme court and any future decision in teachers’ favor.”

Iker appealed to Clark in the statement.

“The BCPSEA didn’t get the job done this weekend,” he said. “They weren’t prepared or authorized to make the moves necessary to get the deal done.

“Now it’s up to the Premier to step in and help get this deal done so that kids and teachers can get back to class.”

But Fassbender said during his press conference that he is in communication about the situation with both the Premier and Finance Minister Mike de Jong, along with his cabinet colleagues.

Fassbender also urged parents with eligible children to register for their $40 per day parent support payment at http://bcparentinfo.ca/. Some parents were reporting that the link was not working Sunday afternoon.

For more stories from the Province, click here.

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