Teachers protested on Cambie Bridge and three busy intersections around the city Wednesday as part of a "day of action" to pressure the government to "negotiate and reach a fair settlement rather than impose a legislated deal," according to the B.C. Teachers' Federation.
Teachers waved signs at one of the demonstration sites at West 16th and Arbutus, a few of which read: "Teachers taking a stand"; "Christy's legacy: 9 years of underfunded public education"; and "CHRISTY, if you think you are right, CALL AN ELECTION."
BCTF president Susan Lambert and other federation leaders were also in negotiations with mediator Charles Jago Wednesday to find a "compromise resolution" to the labour dispute before the fast-approaching deadline.
At the end of February, education minister George Abbott unveiled legislation dealing with the labour dispute that indicated if an agreement wasn't reached between the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association by June 30, Jago would be expected to deliver a report with nonbinding recommendations to the government.
The employers' association told the Courier Wednesday it expected mediation meetings would continue around the clock during the tail end of this week in an attempt to reach a "reasonable zone of agreement." The association defines that as the range within which a potential agreement can be reached between the parties. "Outside the zone, no amount of negotiation will typically lead to an agreement. When the parties are within an overlapping range of expectation, an agreement is possible."
It's unclear what will happen after the June 30 deadline. The employers' association told the Courier staff will be available as needed during summer months and schedules will be adapted based on circumstances that arise.
The teachers' federation wouldn't say whether its key people, including president Susan Lambert, would be taking holidays during the summer break. Its spokesperson said she didn't have details yet.
The Ministry of Education also wouldn't say whether Education Minister George Abbott would be taking a vacation or the timeline for what might happen after June 30 if a negotiated deal wasn't reached.
Instead, the ministry's communications department told the Courier in an email "at this time the focus of the parties remains squarely on mediation."
Earlier this week, Vancouver School Board NPA trustee Sophia Woo raised a motion asking that the board offer Vancouver teachers the opportunity to meet periodically during the summer to discuss issues as they unfold. The last scheduled board meeting is July 4.
Woo's motion, supported by NPA colleague Ken Denike, failed as Vision trustees and COPE's Allan Wong voted against it.
Board chair Patti Bacchus, a Vision trustee, maintains it was redundant since there's nothing stopping the board meeting during summer months if required.
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