Teachers’ Strike in BC, Canada Stalls 1st Day of School; Labour Dispute Could Last Even After Labour Day

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A Woman WearsSunglasses in the Shape of Canadian Flags During Canada Day Celebrations in Ottawa
A woman wears sunglasses in the shape of Canadian flags during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa July 1, 2014. Canadians are celebrating their country's 147th birthday.

An ongoing teachers' strike has indefinitely postponed the start of classes for public school children in British Columbia, Canada. The new school year is supposed to start on Sept 2.

Vince Ready, a veteran mediator, had been burying his head since Thursday developing what could be a win-win solution for both striking 40,000 public school teachers as well as their employers,

But both sides remained unyielding on their respective positions.

"I just see no basis at this point for meaningful negotiations or mediation," CBC News quoted Ready.

"School is not going to be opening Tuesday," Education Minister Peter Fassbender confirmed at a press conference on Sunday.

The B.C. Teachers' Federation is clamoring for a $336 million increase in wages and benefits over a five-year time frame, but the B.C.  Public School Employers' Association could only afford $170 million.

The teachers and government negotiators were more than $300 million apart, prompting Ready to walk out on negotiations, exasperated on both groups.

Jim Iker, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, said teachers were actually already excited going back to work to teach the children but this won't be happening on Sept 2. In fact, he said the labour dispute could continue after Labour Day because of Saturday's failed mediation talks.

Meantime, the BC government has offered to paying $40 a day to parents with children aged 12 and under to help with daycare costs in the midst of the continued strike.

Fassbender said parents must first register at the government's website to avail of the $40 a day. However, the payments will come only after the strike is over.

Fassbender likewise reaffirmed his earlier commitment to not resort to legislation to force teachers back to work. "Legislation has led to litigation, has led to court cases. We have got to stop doing it that way," he said. "We are not going to legislate."

If and when the dispute gets settled on the next meeting, which has yet to be scheduled, Iker said preparation time before classes begins will still need to be discussed.

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