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Frustrated mom petitions for cameras at the teacher bargaining tableSeptember 4, 2014

Author: Webmaster

A Kelowna mother, frustrated with finger-pointing and false charges during teacher contract talks, has started a petition calling for bargaining sessions to be televised so everyone will know what’s going on.

“No one knows what to believe any more, and it is our children who are paying the price,” says the petition started by Tera Pemberton. “Air it live on TV so that B.C. taxpayers can see what both sides are proposing, opposing and compromising . . . and let’s get this resolved.”

As of mid-day Thursday, just  two days after it was posted on the website change.org, the petition had more than 3,000 signatures. The goals was an additional  1,744.

Pemberton told The Province newspaper that British Columbians are tired of the dispute and want transparency and accountability from both government and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF).

While I don’t think televising the negotiations would be practical – and, considering the lack of progress, who would watch? – Pemberton makes a good point. Members of the public have been flooded with conflicting information about the strike.

Sometimes it seems even the parties aren’t up to speed.

For example, on Wednesday, Premier Christy Clark and BCTF president Jim Iker both held news conferences and both presented information that was later corrected by the other side.

Clark, in her first news conference about the dispute that closed schools in mid-June, suggested the BCTF’s demands were unreasonable, especially the call for “unlimited massages” for teachers. But Iker, in his later news conference, denied that unlimited massages were ever on the table.

What the union wants is $700 a year for massages, up from $500, with a maximum of $3,000 for teachers in chronic pain, he said, adding that the latter request had been taken off the table.

Then Iker was asked about Clark’s call for the union to suspend its strike, while negotiations continue, so that students may return to school. He replied: “We’re not suspending any strike right now – and, we’re also locked out. You ought to remember – teachers are locked out.”

But apparently they’re not. The next day, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) sent a letter to Iker with “official confirmation” that the lockout has been lifted.

“There is nothing preventing BC teachers from returning to work and resuming their full duties, and receiving their normal pay if the BCTF directs its members to do so,” said the letter signed by BCPSEA administrator Michael Marchbank.

But, “BCPSEA reserves the right to implement future lockouts . . . and in particular, reserves the right to lockout in the event BCTF members return to work, but do not agree to fully perform all of their scheduled duties in the normal manner.”

Reporters were told that the lockout had been lifted in August, but the BCTF said it wasn’t notified. Iker, meanwhile, said the union proposal for massages was modified, but government says it wasn’t notified.

Maybe having cameras at the bargaining table isn’t such a bad idea after all.

I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and do not speak for the organization.

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