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B.C. teachers' strike: Talks underway under a media blackout

09/14/2014 02:25 EDT | Updated 11/14/2014 05:59 EST
The two sides in the B.C. teachers' dispute bargained all day Saturday until just past midnight Sunday. 

Neither side was willing to comment on the status of the talks, but mediator Vince Ready confirmed to reporters bargaining was, in fact, underway.

That seemed to indicate progress of a sort as the parties have been unable to engage in substantive talks and Ready had previously said the two sides were just too far apart for any meaningful involvement on his part.

However, there is still little clarity about the nature of the bargaining or its scope as both sides have agreed not to talk until there is something to say.

On Wednesday, teachers voted by a margin of more than 99 per cent to end their strike if the government would agree to binding arbitration but the government rejected the offer out-of-hand saying it could lead to a tax hike.

The school year has been delayed indefinitely as more than 40,000 teachers picket across the province, waiting for their leadership and the government to strike an agreement so they can commence classes. Teachers started strike action almost two weeks before the end of the school year in June.

Bargaining has been at a near standstill while both sides attempt to gain public support. Families grow weary of the dispute and many on the picket lines say they yearn to start teaching again.

Legislated settlement coming?

Education Minister Peter Fassbender wants a negotiated settlement. Premier Christy Clark said earlier this week she is determined to get a conclusion before she flies out to India on a trade mission Oct. 9, three days after the legislature resumes.

Fassbender had flatly rejected back-to-work legislation until Thursday, when he softened his position and said legislation was another option available to government.

A coalition of Ontario public school educators donated $100,000 Friday to a growing pot of money being distributed as loans and grants to financially struggling teachers. The contribution raised an overall hardship fund to nearly $9 million.

Ontario Teachers' Federation president Rian McLaughlin represents 160,000 teachers, who she said have watched their B.C. counterparts suffer for a long time and want to show their support.

Three affiliates contributed to the donation: the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.

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