Premier Christy Clark is telling public school teachers to suspend their strike and get back to the bargaining table.
For the first time in a long time in the dispute, Clark has spoken out, and says she is unhappy with the way things are going.
“I want to today strongly urge the union leadership to bargain, to bargain seriously, to bargain with the hope that we can get to a negotiated solution to this that will be fair to their members, fair to taxpayers, and will be fair to the other 150,000 public sector workers who have already settled.”
She says teachers deserve a raise, but union needs to be fair, and not ask for a contract worth twice as much as what other public sector unions have received.
When asked if the province would suspend its demand to set aside the court rulings on class size and composition, Clark had this to say: “But what parents want to know is that their kids can get back into the classroom as soon as possible and that we can start spending something like $375 million on improving classroom composition. That is where I want to be.”
When pressed Clark said she is not at the negotiating table and would not engage in bargaining with reporters.
Union says teachers are standing firm
BCTF President Jim Iker says the government is actually trying to prolong the strike, adding teachers refuse to back down.
“Despite losing in BC Supreme court, twice, the government is trying to undo the implications of those rulings. The BC Liberal government is fighting to keep money out of the education system.”
He says the system has been underfunded for 12 years, and the government needs to re-think its priorities.
NDP leader John Horgan says Clark is fanning the flames instead of calming the waters.
“I called the Premier out in an open letter just yesterday hoping she would bring a more consensual and respectful approach to the debate. I’m regretting now that I asked her to step forward because she brought the same immaturity that we’ve been seeing from the BC Liberals for the past 12 months.”
Horgan says the government should settle the issue of class size and composition before dealing with wages and benefits.
Teachers call it ‘a lot of fluff’
Picketing teachers at Vancouver Technical School characterized the Premier’s comments about signing bonuses and “unlimited massages” as a red herring.
“A lot of what Christy said I think is a lot of fluff.”
“Distraction in the sense it’s not addressing the real issues.”
“It was done in such a way to sound like she was informed, for her to say that her biggest concern is class size and composition is misleading.”
Apparently, the Premier did not seem to have all the facts at her fingertips.
Here’s the line that ignited a firestorm on Twitter and prompted the leader of the NDP to call Christy Clark “immature:” “We’re still talking about an extra day off for high school teachers, we’re talking about unlimited massage, $150,000 in signing bonus.”
But in fact, the union never demanded unlimited massage, and their proposal for up to $3,000 in massage therapy for injured workers, has been dropped.
Puzzled government officials say they have yet to see that in writing.
Also, the union says it never asked for another day off, just more prep time for high school teachers.
And one more correction for the Premier: The union’s demand for a $5,000 signing bonus would add up to $150 million, not $150,000.