Veteran mediator Vince Ready is making himself available in an attempt to end the acrimonious dispute involving British Columbia's public school teachers.
A joint statement from the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association says Ready met separately with the parties on Wednesday and has indicated his availability this week and later in August.
Ready has been working in mediation for more than 30 years and has worked on more than 7,000 labour and commercial disputes in Canada.
He was recently retained for another 90 days to help resolve the ongoing dispute between truck drivers and Port Metro Vancouver.
The union says Ready will monitor the situation and has agreed to resume exploratory talks, or even full mediation if he believes it will be productive.
Both the employer and the union have agreed to shut down public discussion pending further talks with Ready.
B.C.'s 41,000 teachers have been on a full strike since June 17. The government imposed a lockout during a partial strike by teachers earlier in June.
Two mediators have declined offers to step in and resolve the dispute, saying both sides are too far apart for mediation to be effective.
The main issues in the contract dispute include wages, class sizes and composition. Teachers say there needs to be fewer students who are English Language Learners — formerly known as ESL — or who have special needs, in each class.
Emergency parent advisory meeting
With time running out before the new school year starts, the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils has called an emergency meeting for this Saturday.
BCCPAC president Nicole Makohoniuk said Monday if there's no deal reached by Aug. 25, then school will not start on time.
The BCCPAC will be looking to find a firm position on the current strike, she said.
To complicate matters, the B.C. government has offered the parents of each public school student under the age of 13 years $40 a day if the dispute is not over by the start of classes in September.
When the plan was first announced, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the cash would be paid using savings made from not having to pay teachers during the dispute — a program he said would cost the government about $12 million a day.
BCTF president Jim Iker has slammed it as a divisive strategy that would only prolong the dispute. BCCPAC's president says the feedback she has heard has not been promising for the plan.