“He [Iker] called on government to agree to binding arbitration,” explained President of the Peace River North Teachers Association, Michele Wiebe. “Each side gets to present their case; so BCTF would go to the arbitrator and say ‘this is what we are asking for and this is why we’re asking for it,’ and then BCPC would go to him or her and say ‘this is what we’re asking for and why’… It’s binding so both sides need to agree with it.”
Wiebe goes on to explain that with an arbitrator, both sides aren’t going to get exactly what they want, but at least it’s “a way to move forward and get teachers and children back in the classroom.”
“Teachers want to be in their classrooms doing what they love to do, which is to teach children,” said Wiebe. “Students want to be in their classrooms. This is hard for everybody; this is hard for parents, this is hard for teachers, this is hard for community members.”
A major contention the BCTF has with the government’s conditions, according to Wiebe, is a clause called E80, which she says essentially allows the government to remove parts of the collective agreement without a consensus from both parties, including class size and composition.
“They didn’t put it (E80) on the table to begin with, so now we’re trying to get that off the table because it is basically saying that even if we win the court case in October, they will still take it (class size and composition) out of our collective agreement,” Wiebe explains, going on to say Premier Christy Clark’s position is “shameful.”
Wiebe added Clark’s position has only illustrated her animosity towards teachers and the public school system, dating back to 2002 when she was the Minister of Education and initially attempted take away the union’s bargaining rights, which also included class size and composition but was later denied when the court system found it to be unconstitutional.
“I believe there is a personal (sic) vendetta against teachers and public education,”Wiebe said.
The way things are progressing at the moment, Wiebe say she doesn’t see classes being back in session for at least another week or two.