06/25/2013 17:05 EDT | Updated 08/25/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. suspends teacher contract talks

The head of the B.C. Teachers' Federation says she's disappointed with news the B.C. government has suspended talks with the province's public school teachers.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender is overhauling the bargaining process and has scrapped the mandate of the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, which represented government in talks with teachers, and replaced it with a single negotiator.

"It's not a matter of the process of bargaining, that's not what's broken. What's broken is the content," said BCTF president Susan Lambert.

"So this announcement and this action by the minister does nothing to address the needs of school systems, of the public school system, or of teachers."

Fassbender has appointed long-time mediator Peter Cameron to lead a provincial team with teachers and the B.C. School Trustees Association.

The change means five months of contract talks between the BCPSEA and BCTF have been halted, although Fassbender says work done to date will "inform" his ministry's future positions.

He also says the pause in talks is only temporary and is a necessary step toward the BCTF's desire to bargain directly with government on provincial issues.

However, he says before negotiations can resume, all sides must create a roadmap toward a 10-year deal — something the BCTF has already openly opposed.

The teachers "do not feel a 10-year agreement is something that they can support and I simply said to them then, and I say now, 'Let's sit down, develop the road map and then start to deal with the specific issues.'

"I'm still as optimistic as I always have been."