OKANAGAN – Carrying signs with slogans like ‘grade 12s for education’ and ‘no school is un-cool’ students held a rally outside Liberal MLA Dan Ashton’s Penticton office Wednesday.
“We are out here to spread the message that we have a voice and we really care about getting back to school. It is our number one priority right now,” says student Caitlin Shaw.
Meanwhile, teachers around the province are voting today on whether they want binding arbitration to be used to resolve the labour dispute.
In the Central Okanagan School District they could cast ballots on the picket line.
Teachers were asked if they would be willing to end the strike if the government agrees to a number of conditions including binding arbitration.
“There is a lot of trust that has been lost between teachers and the government and binding arbitration would allow a neutral third party to come in and look at the history of the last 13 years and come up with a fair decision,” says teacher Karen Bernath.
“We are looking for a resolution to this to get our schools open quickly,” says Susan Bauhart president of the Central Okanagan Teachers’ Association.
The province has already rejected calls for binding arbitration.
“The BCTF executive knew when they called for it that this government would not agree to it and that ploy was to make them look like they are trying to be reasonable trying to come to a path to a settlement through binding arbitration,” said education minister Peter Fassbender at a news conference Monday.
Fassbender suggested the union knew it would be very unlikely for government to agree to binding arbitration because of what’s happened in the past.
“Last Friday I mentioned the fact that I was a tax payer when the NDP government settled with the doctors through binding arbitration and that had a huge impact on the budget of the province of British Columbia and on all of us as taxpayers,” said Fassbender.
Bauhart questions how Fassbender knows the union knew his government would reject binding arbitration.
“I would respectfully suggest the minister of education should be concerned about the huge impact their past and current actions have had and are having on public education. Binding arbitration is the solution that will get both parties beyond the current impasse and will ensure our students are back in school,” wrote Bauhart in an email responding to the minister’s remarks.
With no deal in site, students are still waiting for the new school year to start.
For Shaw school can’t resume soon enough.
“We have the right to an education and right now we are not getting that,” she says.