British Columbia Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker got a standing ovation from hundreds of teachers gathered in Kamloops, B.C., Sunday morning, as he delivered a challenge to Education Minister Peter Fassbender.
"My message to the minister today and his rhetoric of 24/7 bargaining is let's see it. How about tomorrow? Let's get this deal done," Iker said.
The BCTF president, speaking at the union's summer leadership conference, said teachers are ready to enter into mediation today, if only the province would agree to make it happen.
"The holdout has been government and their unwillingness to enter full-scale mediation and compromise," Iker said. "We're ready to negotiate anytime. We've been ready all summer."
Professional mediator Vince Ready agreed earlier this month to work with the groups, but also said he can't start working until teachers and government are closer to agreeing to terms.
In the meantime, the BCTF has said a rotating picket schedule will be in effect again at schools across the province this week, with picket lines going up in Vancouver, Langley, and Kamloops Monday.
Classes at B.C. public schools were scheduled to resume Sept. 2 for the start of the 2014-2015 school year. The government has promised to pay parents $40 per school-aged child for every school day that is missed due to the strike.
During his speech Sunday, Iker called the province's $40-a-day offer a "bribe," and said it has been "incredibly unhelpful."
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The province's 40,000 public school teachers began the strike two weeks before the end of the school year, calling for higher wages and more control over class sizes and composition.
Iker said he is still "hopeful" that teachers can get back to work and students get back to classes very soon.
"I know its been a summer of uncertainty and there's much to do in the days ahead, but I'm still hopeful we can reach a negotiated settlement so that we can get back to what we want to be doing, what we love to be doing, and that's teaching," he said.