New Democrats call for mediation and voluntary suspension of lockout and strike so schools can open on time

VICTORIA – B.C.’s New Democrat opposition are calling on both sides of the school labour dispute to come to the bargaining table immediately with mediator Vince Ready and voluntarily suspend the government’s lockout and teachers’ strike so that schools can open on time next Tuesday.

“Respected mediator Vince Ready has said he is prepared to come to the table to help the two sides reach a settlement, but the B.C.  Liberal government continues to put up barriers to mediation,” said New Democrat opposition education spokesperson Rob Fleming. “Let’s hope the outcome of the meeting today between the Minister of Education and the president of the BCTF finally signals a willingness to start moving forward.”

“If the Clark government removes those conditions and comes to the table for mediated bargaining, then both sides should voluntarily suspend their job actions so our kids can be in school where they belong. We have 500,000 B.C. students and their parents living with uncertainty about whether they will be going back to school as planned on Tuesday,” said Fleming.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender has said that the government would only agree to mediation on a narrow scope of issues, not including wages.

“The only way to reach a fair settlement and ensure kids are in classrooms one week from today is to get both sides back to the table as quickly as possible,” Fleming said.“Imposing arbitrary preconditions will prevent mediation and ultimately delay labour peace in our public education system.

“Once mediation has started, both sides should voluntarily agree to suspend their job action so kids can be back in classrooms where they belong while bargaining continues.”