Vernon teachers not optimistic

Vernon Teachers Association doubts Feb. 23 deadline for Ministry of Labour to find common ground in education dispute will be met....

Local teachers aren’t confident a labour dispute can be resolved unless Victoria bends.

A Ministry of Labour official has until Feb. 23 to determine if there’s a realistic chance of the teachers and the Ministry of Education finding common ground over wages and other points of contention.

“We’ve already compromised but there’s been no response from the government,” said Bruce Cummings, Vernon Teachers Association president.

“There’s been no negotiating. We need movement on their part. They’ve been stonewalling for a year.”

Teachers want a 16-per-cent wage increase over three years, as well as other benefit enhancements. However, the government has stated it’s not providing wage increases given financial conditions.

Cummings doesn’t have a lot of faith in the Ministry of Labour’s fact-finding mission as the person doing the review is a government official.

“If it was an independent fact-finder I’d welcome that, but it’s not independent,” he said.

The education minister supports the fact-finder’s role.

“I am hoping the fact-finder will come back and say, ‘No, I have discovered a heretofore unseen disposition to move to a resolution,’” said George Abbott, who is also Shuswap MLA, in a media interview.

“I hope that’s what he says. We look forward to receiving his advice and recommendations, and we will give ourselves some opportunity to review our options at that point for, I hope, the future.

“I think this is as clear a signal as I can give to the parties that the present situation is unacceptable, that there needs to be some remedy of this situation, and perhaps that will uncover some elements of disposition that previously haven’t.”

Cummings says Abbott has been an active participant in the dispute and plays a role in it not being resolved.

“His deputy minister has been at the table for months and saying they won’t move at all,” said Cummings.

Abbott has suggested that legislating an end to the dispute may be an option the government considers.

That is a situation Cummings wants to avoid.

“We don’t need an imposed settlement. We need a negotiated settlement,” he said.