VANCOUVER - Teachers in British Columbia have rejected a mediator's report that suggested they accept their employer's latest offer of a three-year contract with an annual two per cent wage increase.

A key factor in the decision to reject the offer, the teachers’ union said in a statement, was the BC Public School Employers' Association’s effort to renegotiate current rules around class size and composition.

The BC Teachers' Federation and the employers' association, which negotiates on behalf of the provincial government, have been in mediation since July.

The teachers' federation says the employers' association declined to receive any more proposals in September and asked the mediator to write a report, which was released to the parties Nov. 1.

The federation says in a news release Saturday that its representative assembly, made up of representatives from every local teacher association in B.C., rejected the report's recommendations.

“The main barriers to getting a deal are long-held demands from the employer to rollback the class-size and class-composition language recently restored by the Supreme Court of Canada, and a lack of funding from government to make meaningful improvements to teachers’ salaries,” said Teri Mooring, president of the BCTF, in a statement.

Mooring was referring to a decades-long court battle that ended in a 2016 court judgment that restored the union’s ability to bargain for class size and composition (class composition refers to the number of special needs students and number of specialist teachers).

After the court ruling, B.C. school districts struggled to hire around 3,700 more teachers as smaller class size limits that had been in force in 2002 were reinstated.

Alan Chell, board chair of the employers' association, says in a statement he is “surprised and disappointed," adding that the decision represents a “missed opportunity” to create a pathway forward. He said it was important to the association to be able to negotiate class size and composition.

“The court said the parties have the right to negotiate” class size and composition language, Chell said in a statement.

He added that school boards in B.C. have told the BCPSEA that those class size and composition rules need to change “so they can more effectively provide the services to students that they need in 2020 and beyond.”

The BC School Trustees’ Association says the current language around class size and composition rules is “out of date.”

Teachers’ wages also continue to be an issue for the union, Mooring said: B.C. teachers have the lowest starting salary in Canada, and the lowest overall salary in the Western provinces, including Ontario and Alberta, according to the BCTF.

With files from The Canadian Press.