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Public schools will stay closed Tuesday, education minister says

Fassbender: Government, teachers remain $300 million apart
Education Minister Peter Fassbender: “I think parents, students and communities would like to know whether the BCTF is willing to let schools open and allow teachers to work while mediator Vince Ready helps the parties to negotiate an agreement."

There won’t be any public school Tuesday, according to B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who said at a press conference Sunday that the government is not going to get back on the “treadmill” of legislating the B.C. Teachers Federation back to work from their strike.

Fassbender said repeatedly that he was disappointed with the situation but there was no indications when negotiations might resume in talks that broke down Saturday when veteran mediator Vince Ready walked away from the two sides in the dispute.

“Needless to say, I’m very disappointed for students and parents and teachers that I’m standing here today addressing an issue that I hoped would have a different outcome than we face,” he said.

The problem, said Fassbender, was money.

“The reality is there is still over $300 million of gap between what the government has put on the table that is in keeping with the other public section unions [received in contract agreements] and what the BCTF is asking for,” he said.

“If we were even to consider that, who should we take that money from? Health care? Other social services in the province?

“We have been clear we are not going to put our fiscal plan in this province into deficit to meet the unrealistic demands of the BCTF.”

BCTF president Jim Iker was not immediately available for comment but the union responded to Fassbender’s comments on Twitter by restating that it had already changed its demands.:”Over the weekend in talks with [mediator] Vince Ready, the BCTF trimmed its package by $125 million.”

The BCTF also said that Iker has called on Premier Christy Clark to meet this weekend to resolve the dispute.

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