The two sides in the education labour dispute will resume bargaining talks on Friday, Aug. 8.
However, the B.C. Liberal government’s decision to proceed with payments to parents in the event the teachers’ strike continues into September is drawing fire on a number of fronts.
Calling it a “bomb,” Kamloops-Thompson board of education chairwoman Denise Harper condemned the proposed $40-per-day grant Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced for parents if teachers remain on strike when school resumes on Sept. 2.
“I am astonished the government would meddle in the bargaining process at this critical time,” Harper said.
“It was a bomb. It came on the heels of what had been a hopeful conference call with trustees at the provincial level just days before.”
Harper said the government’s chief bargainer, Peter Cameron — who is working with the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) — was on the call with the B.C. School Trustees Association.
“He sounded more positive than he has in earlier conference calls,” Harper said.
“I can’t find a logical reason for this poorly thought-out announcement that has undermined bargaining. It is destructive interference rather than constructive help.”
David Komljenovic, president of the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association, called the grant announcement a distraction from bargaining and accused the government of abdicating its responsibility to try to resolve the contract impasse so classrooms will be open in September.
As for using the estimated $178 million in salary savings from the June strikes to fund the grant program, Harper and Komljenovic each criticized the decision, saying that money should be put back into the education system.
Komljenovic also noted the money is taxable.
“So, it’s just going back to the government.”
Harper questioned if the government’s own bargaining committee knew of the plan to provide parents of students under 13 in the public-education system the daily amount should the labour dispute between the government and teachers leave classroom doors closed in the upcoming school year.
Komljenovic, who is also a member of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) bargaining committee, also wondered if provincial bargainers and ministries are talking to each other.
“It would be good if the ministry and negotiators would communicate with each other,” he said.
Komljenovic’s earlier comments that bargaining dates in August were being confirmed and that a potential mediator was still available had been termed incorrect by Ministry of Education spokespeople.
However, the BCTF and the BCPSEA issued a press release at noon on Friday, Aug. 1, confirming bargaining talks will resume on Aug. 8.