B.C. teachers vote 99% in favour of binding arbitration
Published Wednesday, September 10, 2014 5:22PM PDT Last Updated Thursday, September 11, 2014 9:14AM PDT
Teachers in British Columbia have voted 99.4 per cent in favour of binding arbitration as a way to end the months-long labour dispute with the provincial government.
Members of the BC Teachers’ Federation cast ballots as to whether they were prepared to end their ongoing job action if the province agrees to binding arbitration – and drop E80, a controversial contract clause concerning class size and composition.
The ballot read: "Do you agree with the BCTF Executive Committee recommendation that, if BCPSEA drops E80 and agrees to BCTF's proposal to enter into binding interest arbitration and to leave court-related matters to the court, the current strike be ended?"
BCTF President Jim Iker said a total of 30,669 members voted -- 30,490 in favour of a ‘yes’ mandate.
He says the government is the only thing standing in the way of a settlement and getting thousands of B.C. kids back to school.
“Our members are sending a strong message. We’re ready to stand down if the government will agree,” Iker said.
The vote results come just days after B.C.’s education minister flatly refused the proposal of binding arbitration for a second time, calling it a “ploy” to deflect responsibility.
In a statement issued to media moments after the vote count was released, Peter Fassbender called the results “widely expected and understandable.”
"We know B.C. teachers want schools re-opened. That is a goal we all share.”
He maintained that binding arbitration would lead to tax increases for British Columbians because the sides are still too far apart when it comes to wages and benefits.
"The best way to resolve this labour dispute remains at the negotiating table,” he said.
"I will continue to call on the BCTF to suspend this strike and get into the affordability zone, just like 150,000 other hard-working women and men in the public sector who have settled this year."
Iker seemed unconcerned that the government has already refused its proposal multiple times in the past week.
“Just because you say no once doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind,” he told reporters late Wednesday night. “We’re encouraging the government to change its mind, and we think this is a fair way to end the dispute.”
The province’s finance minister says binding arbitration could cost British Columbians up to $200 extra each year on their property tax.
The B.C. NDP has urged the province to accept the offer of binding arbitration, to get children back into school.
Follow @CTVVancouver on Twitter for the latest on this developing story, and watch CTV News at 11:30 with Norma Reid.