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Summer school cancelled in SD5 as negotiations stall
With summer classes in School District 5 (SD5) cancelled, the ongoing teachers' strike seems to have no end in sight. A B.C. Supreme Court justice concluded last week that the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) and the provincial government are too far apart on wages and working conditions for mediation to be effective.
“We had a mediator, and the government had agreed to bring in a mediator originally, so we were hoping to kind of get things rolling and set up some times to try to solve this problem that we're in. Now it turns out that the government has decided against the mediator,” explained Christina Smith, president of the Fernie District Teachers' Association. “What this means, I'm not sure... I think this is going to be frustrating for parents, for kids, for teachers; it's going to be frustrating for everybody.”
The B.C. Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) and the BCTF confirmed last Wednesday that Justice Stephen Kelleher had taken part in "exploratory” talks to seek an end to the teacher strike that wiped out the last two weeks of the school year.
"He had some exploratory discussions with the parties and determined that mediation is not indicated at this time," said an agreed statement by both parties.
“When I spoke to members, they were very hopeful that by the end of the school year we would have something solved and be able to go into our summer relaxed and know that we would be back in September,” said Smith. “Now we're kind of shifting our thoughts and our slogan is 'a settled September'.”
BCPSEA has proposed a seven per cent pay increase over six years, plus a $1,200 signing bonus with a deadline that expired June 30. The BCTF has countered eight per cent over five years with a proposed $5,000 bonus, to make up for the year the union has spent working under an expired contract.
“I would encourage members of the community, whether they're parents, grandparents, anyone that's looking at this situation in concern, to contact their local school trustees and express their feelings to them,” urged Smith. “They work closely with the board, and hopefully through the board we can get the word to the ministry that we really are hoping for a settled September.
She added, “We haven't given up yet, we're still hopeful, but I would encourage anybody that is concerned with this situation to definitely contact their local school trustees.”