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Mediator sits down for strike talk

A potentially pivotal meeting between B.C.'s teachers' union, a government negotiator and a labour mediator is underway in the Vancouver area.

Teachers have been on strike since mid-June, and there is still no deal to end a strike that is threatening to derail the start of the school year next week.

A labour mediator who has been monitoring the dispute for the past two weeks is at a hotel in Richmond, B.C., meeting with the president of the teachers' union and a negotiator with the BC Public School Employers' Association, which bargains on behalf of the government.

The meeting is being described as "exploratory" and will allow mediator Vince Ready to assess whether the two sides are close enough to begin formal mediation.

The gathering follows a proposal from the province's education minister, who asked the teachers' union and the employer to enter into mediation, put aside some of the most contentious issues in the dispute, and agree not to stage strikes or lockouts for two weeks.

The employers' association negotiator, Peter Cameron, says the education minister's proposal isn't a precondition for negotiations, though he says he hopes to see some movement from the union.

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