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No school Tuesday

RICHMOND, B.C. - Veteran mediator Vince Ready has walked away from talks between British Columbia teachers and their employer, smothering hopes of parents that the school year would start on time.

All 40,000 of the province's public school teachers went on strike two weeks before summer vacation in June, and ongoing job action had many worried the start of school would be put on hold indefinitely.

Now that Ready has left, Peter Cameron, the government's negotiator, said the current round of talks is over.

Ready is widely regarded as one of the best labour trouble-shooters in the country, and many had hoped his involvement would break an impasse between the two sides.

He brought both Jim Iker of the teachers' union and Cameron together for two days of talks exploring the chance of mediation, which many parents hoped would prevent the start of the school year from being derailed.

Cameron says Ready walked away because both sides were too far apart for mediation to begin, which means school will not start as usual on Tuesday.

"This is effectively terminated," he said. "We think we have been very frank with Vince."

"It will not start on time," Cameron said, referring to the school year.

Cameron says both sides will be waiting for Ready to determine when they are close enough to begin discussions again.

Prior to those discussions, Iker and Cameron met with Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who proposed that both parties put aside the most contentious issues and start mediation.

Public school teachers across the province went on strike two weeks before the start of summer vacation, booting half a million students out of class.

There was little progress during the summer regarding the main issues, which were class size, pay and the amount of support staff in each class.

The government has said it will not legislate teachers back to work.

-By Steven Chua in Vancouver.


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