BC teachers will engage fully with the process initiated today by Labour Minister Margaret MacDiarmid, but they have deep concerns that the outcome may well be predetermined.
“We certainly hope this is a genuine process, but we worry that it’s simply designed to pave the way to an imposed contract,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert.
At the request of Education Minister George Abbott, today MacDiarmid appointed Trevor Hughes, her assistant deputy minister, as a “fact-finder” in the ongoing labour dispute. He was given a deadline of February 23, 2012 to determine the answer to the question: “Can the two parties come to a voluntary settlement?”
“Teachers firmly believe that if there is good will on both sides, the answer to that question is yes,” Lambert said. “However, we are concerned about the lack of independence in the process.”
She noted that Abbott’s representative at the bargaining table has repeatedly stated that government’s objectives are non-negotiable. “Now, instead of going to an independent mediator who could have brought the sides closer together, they’ve appointed one of their own from within government to determine whether a solution is possible,” Lambert said.
She called on Abbott and MacDiarmid to ensure that the “fact-finding” process is, indeed, a genuine one. “I certainly hope there is a sincere intention here. Otherwise, we have to question whether we are being asked to take part in a charade.”
Lambert reiterated that, from the beginning of this round of bargaining, teachers have worked hard to achieve a negotiated settlement at the table.
“We’ve demonstrated that we are ready to take the steps necessary to reach a fair and reasonable agreement. Now it’s government’s turn to compromise and negotiate in good faith,” Lambert said. “After all, it’s in everyone’s best interests for both sides to reach a mutually respectful collective agreement. That’s our goal.”