POLITICS

B.C. teachers enter fifth month of contract talks with no sign of stalemate end

01/04/2012 07:50 EST | Updated 03/05/2012 05:12 EST
VANCOUVER - Contract negotiations between striking B.C. teachers and their employer have entered a fifth month without any sign of an end to the stalemate.

The two sides returned to the bargaining table on Wednesday, although Melanie Joy, chairwoman of the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, said she is not optimistic that much will change following the holiday break.

Joy said the teachers' union is unrealistic not to budge from its original demand for an estimated $2-billion in compensation increases despite the government's mandate of a net-zero wage increase for public sector employees.

But B.C. Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert said the union used the holiday break to work on a revised contract proposal.

"I hope that government has taken the opportunity of the break to re-examine its own mandate," she said. "We worked hard over the break to further hone our own mandate."

"We are going to be working a bit more on that in the next couple of weeks and then we are going to re-enter negotiations with renewed resolve."

But Joy was cautious about any suggestion of change to the union strategy.

"Until there is some willingness to actually have that conversation, I think we are going to stay far apart."

The teachers' collective agreement expired last June and they have refused all administrative duties since September to back demands for salary hikes, benefits, and paid leave.

Teachers have not written report cards, taken part is some extra-curricular activities or supervised students outside the classroom during the so-called Phase One of their strike action.

In a ruling released late last month, the B.C. Labour Relations Board concluded bargaining between teachers and their employers is so dysfunctional that changes must be made.

The three board members found the current strike action isn't putting pressure on either side to come to an agreement.

The panel called the entire process "fundamentally flawed." (CHNL)