Two weeks before school starts, teachers and employers back in mediation

Teachers and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association resumed mediated bargaining on Wednesday.

The two parties are scheduled to meet for eight days in Vancouver with mediator Dave Schaub, who was appointed by the Labour Relations Board.

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“But there’s nothing to prevent either side from scheduling more if things keep moving forward,” said B.C. Teachers’ Federation spokesman Rich Overgaard.

The goal for the BCTF is successful mediation by the end of August, he said.

“We haven’t authorized a strike vote, so there’s no spectre of a strike vote or any type of job action at this point,” Overgaard said. “That’s not in the picture yet.”

Winona Waldron, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, had similar comments about job action.

“It would a require a full-member vote, and that vote hasn’t been called and is not contemplated yet. We’re not at that point,” she said.

Waldron said she is feeling hopeful about the process.

“It’s eight days. I think it’s quite possible that they’re able to negotiate a settlement for the school year.”

The teachers’ contract expired at the end of June. Mediation talks also took place in July.

A wage lift is part of what teachers are looking for, with former GVTA president Jason Gammon saying that B.C. teachers are the lowest paid of the five westernmost provinces.

He also said that local teachers, like others, are intent on maintaining current contract provisions for class size and composition.

A 2016 Supreme Court of Canada decision restored teachers’ right to bargain class size and composition, stripped by the B.C. Liberal government in 2002.

The Ministry of Education said in a statement that it is pleased mediation is taking place because it wants the parties to reach a fair deal.

“This is encouraging,” the statement said, noting that both parties have agreed to adhere to a media blackout on the detail of the discussions.

“We’re optimistic that the parties will find solutions and reach a deal that works for students, teachers and everyone in the school system.”

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