Premier: Time to negotiate now

"Our negotiators are there, we are ready and waiting to negotiate. I want to urge the teacher's union now is not the time to take the summer off."

Those were the words of Premier Christy Clark Monday morning, when asked about the prospect of the labour dispute between BC's teachers and the province stretching into the start of a new school year.

"We want schools back in September and the only way we will do that is if we get a negotiated settlement," says Clark.

"I hope that as we get closer to September the sense of urgency on the part of the teacher's union is going to grow because every parent in this province wants an agreement and we want school back in September."

The two sides haven't met since school let out early in June.

Clark, speaking to reporters during a funding announcement for Kelowna's new $35M Okanagan Centre for Innovation, says the only way to ensure long term labour peace is through a 10 year agreement.

"We all agree teachers deserve a fair raise. We all agree we need to deal with class composition and make sure classrooms are working for kids and we all agree we need labour peace," says Clark.

"I haven't given up my goal of getting a 10 year agreement. We may not get it in this round, but we need to find a way to get there, to fix this process."

She says legislation is what government has done for 30 years and it's not the answer.

"What legislating teachers back to work for the last 30 years has meant is we've guaranteed more labour disruptions. We've guaranteed kids won't see labour peace and I think it's time to try and fix that.

My hope is that we can negotiate an agreement. That's the only way we'll solve this problem in the long term."

Clark says she is still hopeful a settlement can be reached before Labour Day, but only if the union is willing to sit down at the bargaining table.

"Every chance I get I want to urge the union to decide to sit down, get into the settlement zone, recognize we have a lot in common and we can negotiate an agreement if we decide that we need to get there."

Jim Iker, head of the teacher's union, has stated a government mandate that teachers accept a certain wage package before discussing improvements to class conditions is a stumbling block to negotiations.


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