Advance View: Back-to-school blacked out

Anyone who thinks there can be an eleventh hour settlement in the dispute between teachers and the provincial government must be seeing something we’re not.

This is what we see.

The BC Teachers’ Federation’s demands and the BC Public Schools Employers’ Association’s offers were so far apart in midsummer that BC Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kelleher declared there was no point in bothering with mediation.

Since then, any pretences of supporting a mediation process are left in serious doubt. After telephone conversations with chief negotiators on both sides, mediation superstar Vince Ready agreed to get involved in “exploratory talks” between the BCTF and BCPSEA, to “monitor the situation.”

In a joint statement a week ago, the BCTF and BCPSEA announced that they agreed that “they will not engage in public discussion pending further discussions with Mr. Ready.”

That usually is bureaucratese for a media blackout, to tone down the rhetoric and stop bargaining in public.

But Education Minister Peter Fassbender has already been accused by the BCTF of having broken the blackout, although Fassbender, for his part, maintains his public comments weren’t part of the blackout. He has just tried to help parents “understand what is happening, what opportunities are available to them.”

Now, apparently in yet another interpretation of the media blackout, BCTF head Jim Iker called out Fassbender with a challenge to bargain as much as the government is claiming it is, and ink a deal.

Meanwhile, teachers are walking picket lines again around the province, a not-so-subtle reminder of what’s at stake as the school year approaches.

It’s hard to imagine a deal being reached without someone suffering loss of face.

And we suspect that that is clearly too high a price for some folks to pay for our children’s education.

– B.G.

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