Start of B.C. school year in jeopardy as talks break down
Published Saturday, August 30, 2014 2:07PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 31, 2014 5:15PM EDT
Hopes of reaching a resolution between striking B.C. teachers and the province before the start of the school year next week were dashed Saturday evening after mediator Vince Ready walked away from the negotiating table.
Ready, who has been overseeing talks between the B.C. teachers and the province for several days, said the two sides were too far apart on matters such as class sizes, benefits and wages.
The breakdown in talks means there is little chance that the province’s 500,000 students will be back in the classroom on Tuesday for the first day of school.
Ready has been sitting in with both sides for the past three days, in a bid to end the provincewide teachers' strike which began on June 17.
"I've been trying to establish some sort of meaningful framework for mediation, but the parties still remain a long ways apart on the issues," Ready said. "So I've declared an impasse. I just see no basis at this point for meaningful negotiation or mediation."
Chief government negotiator Peter Cameron told reporters Saturday that the two sides have no current plans to meet again.
"This is effectively terminated," said Cameron.
He added that the school year "will not start on time."
After the talks broke down, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said in a tweet that she remains committed to finding a fair deal.
"We want a deal that gives teachers a raise and invests in classrooms, but it must also be in line with settlements for other unions,” Clark said.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation also tweeted they are not giving up on a fair deal before Tuesday.
The province's 40,000 public school teachers hit the picket lines in June over wages and class sizes.
B.C. school districts have held off from telling parents whether classes would be held after the Labour Day weekend that typically marks the end of students’ summer holiday.
The superintendent from the Surrey School District, Jordan Tinney, wrote a letter to parents on Friday saying that Surrey schools could still be open if a deal is reached as late as Monday evening.
But other school districts, including the Richmond and Prince George district said they were not ready to tell parents what to expect.
B.C.'s finance minister announced in August that parents would receive $40 a day for childcare costs if the strike extends into the school year. The government has said it will not legislate teachers back to work.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Sheila Scott and The Canadian Press