British Columbia·Profile

B.C. teachers' strike: Who is mediator Vince Ready?

Veteran mediator Vince Ready is helping to end the B.C. teachers' dispute - but what's his track record?

Veteran mediator is helping to end the dispute - but what's his track record?

While mediator Vince Ready has not yet agreed to begin formal mediation, he has agreed to exploratory talks to see if the two sides are close enough to broker a deal. (CBC)

Veteran mediator Vince Ready has agreed to meet with all sides in the B.C. teachers' strike, raising hope he will work another one of his "miracles" to get the school year started on time.

But what is his track record?

We've seen Vince Ready, in some cases, perform almost miracles- MLA Lyall Hanson (Social Credit) speaking in B.C. Parliament in 1992

Ready, who is in his early 70s, is the third of six children, and was raised on a farm in Ontario. He left home at a young age, working his way across Canada, and taking jobs in construction and in uranium mines.

He has been working in mediation for more than 30 years and, according to his own website, has handled more than 7,000 labour and commercial disputes in Canada.

Here are some highlights of his career:

1960s: Career begins with Steelworkers

1965: Began work in labour relations with the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers of Canada.

1967: Became organizer and staff representative when the union merged with United Steelworkers of America.

1970s: Begins federal, provincial conciliation

Early 1970s: Continued to work in labour relations with steelworkers.

1978: Became conciliation officer for the federal government.

1980s: Sets up as independent mediator 

1980: Took on the job of mediation officer for the B.C. government.

1982: Set up practice as an independent labour mediator and arbitrator.

1983: Attempted to mediate a dispute over privatization, between the B.C. labour movement's Operation Solidarity and the Social Credit government, but without success.

1986: Resolved a dispute between IWA-Canada and the forest industry, ending a strike that lasted 4-1/2 months.

1989: Ended a fishing industry dispute that saw companies threaten to send fish for processing in the U.S., while demanding major concessions of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union to keep the work in Canada.

1989: Announced a series of binding recommendations in a bitter contract dispute between the B.C. Nurses' Union (BCNU) and the Health Labour Relations Association. According to the BCNU, its president at the time, Pat Savage, was not happy about the agreement. "We accept the report under duress," said Savage. "We will now develop mechanisms to make sure the public understands the patient care problems that are sure to result from this shortsighted settlement."

1989: Mediated a settlement for Fording Coal's Elkford mine.

1990s: Ready 'performs almost miracles'

1992: Resolved a dispute at Giant Mine in Yellowknife, described as "violent and confrontational" in court records, which had culminated in the deaths of nine strikebreaking workers.

1992: Appointed chair of Labour Relations Code Review Panel for B.C. government. Served in this position again in 1993 and 1996. In a debate on the code, which took place in B.C. parliament in Oct. 1992, MLA Lyall Hanson (Social Credit) is quoted in Hansard on Ready's career thus far: "We've seen Vince Ready, in some cases, perform almost miracles in going into a dispute that seemed to be unresolvable and coming out with a settlement that avoided further labour disruption and the animosities that go with it."

1995: Appointed to a review panel to examine the B.C. construction industry

1996: Appointed Industrial inquiry commissioner for the B.C. government in collective bargaining dispute with health-care workers.

1998: Mediates a deal to end a long-running pulp and paper mill strike in B.C. Some 2,400 unionized workers at three Fletcher Challenge mills had been striking with for nine months.

2000s: First foray into B.C. teachers' dispute

2001: Publishes report ending a dispute between B.C. Transit and its striking bus drivers. After 123 days without bus service in a city of two million, some businesses said the strike pushed them to the brink of bankruptcy.

2001: Appointed industrial inquiry commissioner for B.C. government in collective bargaining dispute with nurses' union.

2003: Mediates a deal for Manitoba government between The Pas branch of the Industrial, Wood and Allied Workers of Canada and Tolko Industries Ltd.

2003: Appointed federal conciliation commissioner to offer recommendations in a dispute over the contract of Terminal Elevator Operators, who moved grain at ports across Canada, predominantly in Vancouver and Thunder Bay, Ont.

2005: Mediated a deal between B.C. teachers and government, ending a two-week illegal strike action. The teachers walked off the job to protest against a government-legislated contract, demanding smaller class sizes, a salary increase and more support for troubled students.

2005: Recommended a deal between between striking Vancouver container truck drivers and trucking companies that was turned down. Two years later, the federal government legislated to enforce his recommendations.

2006: Hired to review allegations of harassment against Richmond Fire-Rescue Department. His report slammed the department's level of sexual harassment.

2007: Awarded the first W.P. Kelly Award for Lifetime Achievement as a Labour Mediator

2007: Published a binding report resolving a dispute between B.C. Ferries and its employees' union. The row had started in 2003 with an illegal walkout but was exacerbated by sinking of Queen of the North in 2006.

2009: Published a shocking report revealing systemic discrimination and sexual harassment of female dock workers employed on Vancouver waterfront. 

2010s: More awards, another teachers' dispute

2011: Inducted into the National Academy of Arbitrators in the U.S.

2014: Mediated deal between Port of Vancouver and Unifor-Vancouver Container Truckers' Association. Unifor was concerned about long lineups and wait times, which it said was costing its drivers money. It was demanding increased pay rates and wanted the rates standardized and enforced across the trucking sector to put an end to undercutting.

2014: Ready is asked to resolve the dispute between B.C. teachers and their employers, again. He initially declined the job, saying he was too busy, but later said he would make himself available to help end the dispute.

According to his website, Ready is practising in every province in Canada and is named in more than 600 collective agreements.

Ready has worked on more than 7,000 disputes in Canada during his career; it would be impossible to list them all here. Which ones do you remember?

With files from The Canadian Press