B.C. teachers strike enters second school week

The two sides didn’t agree to binding arbitration

VANCOUVER — All half a million of British Columbia’s public school students remain locked out of their classrooms at the start of the second week of the school year as the teachers strike continues.

Over the weekend, the province rejected a deal that tried to end — or at least suspend — the strike.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender says he would not agree to binding arbitration after government negotiator Peter Cameron advised against the idea, saying the proposal was not serious.

Cameron says the teachers did not give government a written proposal and failed to guarantee the end of the strike.

But Jim Iker of the BC Teachers’ Federation says the union would have asked its members to vote to end the job action, and government was being inflexible.

If both sides had gone forward with the deal, a third party would have been appointed to draw out contract details that teachers and government would have been forced to agree upon.

Fassbender had previously given a cool response to the idea, but stopped short of “categorically” rejecting the proposal.

However, since Cameron’s suggestion, it appears arbitration is completely out of the picture.

After government’s rejection of the idea, Cameron said he believed the next step toward resolving the dispute would be to hold talks with veteran mediator Vince Ready.

The teachers’ union has also expressed openness to the idea on Twitter.

Ready is regarded as one of Canada’s top labour troubleshooters, but he said last week the two sides were too far apart for mediation to be effective.

But Cameron says Ready is still monitoring the situation.

The ongoing job action has prompted one school district to entertain its international students because refunds for the annual admission fee will not be given for time lost during the strike.

The Delta School District charges $13,000 for students from around the world to come learn English and attend its classes for a year.

Spokeswoman Deneka Michaud says administrators will take students to see parks, lakes and do Canadian activities for several days this week.

She says the district will monitor the strike situation and make plans on how it will handle the international students if job action keeps going.

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