B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender decided to go back to his roots and asked to speak to Langley newspapers Wednesday, to plead the government’s position in this protracted and historic teachers’ strike.
The former Langley City mayor, who left his seat here to become B.C.’s education minister had a clear message to teachers: suspend the strike for a two week period and do a “full court press on negotiating.”
“Let teachers vote on it. That way they can get back to their classrooms and get paid and we can really get down to negotiating a deal,” said Fassbender, just over an hour after Premier Christy Clark spoke on the same topic.
But just as quickly as both Clark and Fassbender asked for a two-week pause on striking, B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim Iker held a press conference of his own, saying there is no way they will take a two week break.
So the stand-off continues and “kids, families and parents suffer,” Fassbender recognizes.
Despite no likelihood of students getting back in the classroom to get an education soon, Fassbender is steadfast in his resolve they will not legislate teachers back to work.
“We’ve been on that treadmill before and it doesn’t work. All the BCTF does is take us to court over it anyways. We’ve been on this treadmill of disruption, legislation and back to disruption for such a long time, even before the Liberals the teachers were striking.”
Fassbender said the demands the BCTF are making on wage and benefits were once four times higher, now brought down to two times, than every other union the government has settled contracts with.
“That’s not including the $5,000 signing bonus they are demanding.”
Fassbender also swears they are “absolutely willing to negotiate class size and composition” and have put $375 million on the table to settle that complex issue, with the proposal that the money be allocated as seen fit through consultation with principals and teachers.
“But the union clearly said it wants total control over class size and composition,” said Fassbender. What that really means is the BCTF wants more teachers hired. “We are saying maybe there needs to be more special education and teacher assistants hired.”
Fassbender repeated Clark’s comments that 150,000 other public sector employees settled for far less. They didn’t get a $5,000 signing bonus.