By Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun March 12, 2012
VICTORIA – As the legislature entered the sixth day of debate on Bill 22, the B.C. Liberals wielded their legislative majority to cut off debate on one of the most controversial aspects of the legislation, the form of mediation that will be used in the teachers’ contract dispute.
The measure at hand was an Opposition amendment favouring the appointment of “an independent mediator to resolve the dispute without legislation,” and with no strings attached in terms of what the mediator could and could not address.
It contrasted sharply with the Liberal approach of a mediator hand-picked by Education Minister George Abbott and acting on restrictive terms of reference.
Some of those terms were to be expected. Having secured more than 130 public sector contract settlements on the net-zero mandate — including 30 in the education sector — the Liberals weren’t about to make an exception for the teachers.
The mediator has the option of helping the teachers to explore the option that other unions have taken, which is negotiating trade-offs that can then be costed to pay for a wage increase.
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