B.C. Education minister Peter Fassbender said Monday he feels like he is living in the time-loop comedy Groundhog Day and that the position of the striking teachers' union "is absolutely silly."
Fassbender was responding to an announcement earlier in the day by B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) president Jim Iker, who said teachers will vote Wednesday on whether to end their strike and return to work in the event that the government agrees to binding arbitration.
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"Arbitration is not in the cards, period," Fassbender said, suggesting that the BCTF made the proposal knowing the government would not agree to anything that could have implications for taxpayers.
Fassbender said the teachers have offered nothing new, and that he has nothing new to say — likening the situation to the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray relives the same day over and over.
He said the BCTF was pushing for binding arbitration to "make them look reasonable" and that the union's preconditions for arbitration were "non-starters."
"They want something [the E80 clause] taken off the table, that is exactly what they want to do — negotiate class size and composition. It's absolutely silly. I do not understand it."
The BCTF announced Friday it was prepared to enter the arbitration process, with certain conditions, though the offer was soon rejected by the government.
The union's latest move appears to be aimed at putting pressure on the province to accept binding arbitration.
Teachers say the main sticking point is the class size and composition clause, E80, in the contract proposed by the province. The union says E80 must be dropped before arbitration can begin.
A "yes" vote by teachers would end the strike and reopen the schools as soon as the government agreed to arbitration, Iker said.
An arbitrator would decide what's fair, he said, acknowledging that there would likely be compromises on both sides.
"We're proposing that we stand down the strike," he said. "Are there risks involved? Absolutely. But that's the commitment we are making."