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BCTF is 'Ready' for mediation

The BC Teachers’ Federation wants to call in veteran labour mediator Vince Ready to end the ongoing stalemate with the provincial government, that according to CTV Vancouver.

Union president Jim Iker said teachers and the province have nearly reached middle ground on wages, but the BC Liberals haven’t budged on improving classroom conditions for students.

“That’s what we need, that’s what this bargaining is about,” Iker said at a Thursday press conference.

“We can’t short-change the next generation of students any longer.”

Iker called on Premier Christy Clark to agree on the union’s choice of Ready, who has brokered deals between teachers and the province before and mediated thousands of disputes across Canada.

Earlier in the day, the government’s chief negotiator Peter Cameron said a mediated resolution was not in the cards.

“Binding arbitration, in theory, is just handing over to a third-party the decision that the party should be making,” Cameron said. “That’s a big challenge to ask of any government to do.”

The government would be open to a non-binding meeting with a mediator, Cameron said.

An exclusive Insights West poll commissioned by CTV Vancouver found 65 per cent support for binding arbitration in B.C.

Iker said the government has been saving $275 million per year since breaking its contract with teachers in 2002. B.C. is also keeping about $60 million per week in teacher salaries during the strike, but hasn’t committed to putting that money back into education.

The Liberals illegally stripped class size and composition guarantees from teachers’ collective agreements more than a decade ago, according to two separate B.C. Supreme Court rulings the province is appealing.

Teachers have gone three days without pay and their strike fund has run dry, leaving some desperate and worried they won’t be able to pay their mortgages this summer.

The Surrey Teachers’ Association recently bought $10,000 in grocery store gift cards for teachers in need, which were quickly scooped up. It’s now planning to open a food bank for members.

Some additional relief came on Thursday when the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario offered up $1 million to the BCTF in support of their strike effort.

Hundreds of teachers attended a rally Thursday evening in front of the Vancouver Concention Centre.

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