An online petition calling on the B.C. government to accept binding arbitration in the ongoing teachers’ strike is racking up signatures across the province.
The petition, launched Monday by Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver, asks the province to agree to binding arbitration to settle the labour dispute, something Education Minister Peter Fassbender has firmly ruled out. By Wednesday afternoon, the petition had already reached more than 20,000 signatures.
“This tells me people are beginning to recognize the government’s position is unreasonable,” Weaver said.”The government is fear-mongering about how much it will cost to move to binding arbitration, but that’s not accurate because you put forward your best package and both parties have to justify their submissions.”
NDP leader John Horgan also called on the government this week to make the “unprecedented” move to accept arbitration. Horgan said if the government is secure in its belief its wage offer is fair, it should have no concern about the results.
“We’re in uncharted territory, where we’ve had the longest strike in B.C. history, and it’s time we put an end to it,” Horgan said.
Fassbender, however, reiterated his rejection of binding arbitration this week, calling the move “a ploy” by the union.
“Arbitration is not something this government is going to consider,” he said.
Weaver, who has twice been chief negotiator during faculty labour negotiations at the University of Victoria, said arbitration is a time-tested process that won’t throw the province’s finances into disarray, as Fassbender has claimed.
Weaver hopes to garner 50,000 petition signatures over the coming days to increase pressure on the government.
“Education has been my life,” he said. “The hostility the government is showing towards the BCTF is troubling. … It’s putting our next generation in the front lines of a dispute that goes back to 2002 when Premier Christy Clark was minister of education. The government is acting like a schoolyard bully. And you know what, boys and girls: it’s time to grow up.”
-with files from Tom Fletcher