VICTORIA - Minister of Education George Abbott today issued the following statement:
"Yesterday I introduced Bill 22 - the Education Improvement Act, legislation designed to suspend the current job action by teachers, set a 'cooling off' period, appoint a mediator to facilitate bargaining, and implement a new $165-million Learning Improvement Fund.
"Most people are characterizing the bill as a 'measured, thoughtful, balanced and constructive' approach to a dispute that has been going on for almost a year with little chance of a resolution.
"If you look at the history of the relationship between the teachers' union and the government in this province, you'll soon realize that in almost 20 years of provincewide bargaining the BCTF has only successfully concluded one negotiated agreement. You will also realize that Bill 22 is a measured and appropriate response to the current situation.
"I am disappointed by the initial comments coming from the teachers' union. In the most frustrating example - the union has been asking for mediation. Now, they are rejecting the idea simply because the mediator is required to strike a genuine balance in the discussions by looking at what both parties want so we can put the needs of students first.
"It is simply inaccurate for the BCTF to claim that Bill 22 eliminates job security rights, professional autonomy rights and rights to due process. In fact, the bill makes no changes to any of these matters. What it does do is simply get the parties back to the table with a mediator to deal with the issues at hand in a constructive and thoughtful way.
"I am always concerned that the statements by the teachers' union will get in the way of teachers receiving accurate and factual information about the legislation. It is one of the reasons why I hosted a Twitter chat to talk to teachers about the new bill. I enjoyed the opportunity to communicate directly with many teachers via Twitter.
"I hope the teachers' union will drop the rhetoric and help us move forward. I'm hoping that cooler heads will prevail and that people will engage in the very meaningful mediation process that has been set out in this bill.
"I also hope that, for the first time in a long time, we'll be able to get the kind of engagement that produces an agreement among the adults in the room so that kids in the classroom benefit."
Ministry of Education
Government Communications and Public Engagement
250 356-5963 (Media Line)