Teachers’ strike could be nearing turning point

Nothing certain, but there are signs progress is being made at both the local and provincial level on ongoing teachers' strike

While no one knows when the dispute between B.C. teachers and the province will end, there are signs progress is being made at both the local and provincial level.

For the first time since June 30 – the day the contract with 40,000 teachers officially expired – the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association sat down with local bargaining agents.

“It was a day of productive discussion and we hope it was the same on both sides of the table,” said Greater Victoria Board of Education chair Peg Orcherton, about the Feb. 15 meeting. The two sides were set to meet again Feb. 23 (after the News’ deadline).

“This was the first time we’ve really had a dialogue and discussion,” said GVTA first vice-president Bénula Giasson. “It was really optimistic.”

Giasson attributes the positive shift at the Victoria table, in part, to the presence of board trustee Diane McNally as well as Orcherton.

Meanwhile, any progress at the provincial level will likely need to come from outside the B.C. Teachers’ Federation or B.C. Public School Employers’ Association reps at the table.

A labour ministry fact finder, appointed earlier this month, had until Feb. 23 to report on the possibility of finding common ground between teachers and the province.

On Monday, the BCTF called for an independent mediator under the Labour Relations Board to help resolve the impasse.

Education Minister George Abbott has recently been publicly pessimistic about the two sides reaching a settlement on their own. Back-to-work legislation, he said, can be quickly drafted and passed in the legislature.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

-with files from

Tom Fletcher