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B.C. teachers left government no choice, says Premier

Premier Christy Clark spoke to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce following the released of the provincial budget.  - Doug Farrow
Premier Christy Clark spoke to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce following the released of the provincial budget.
— image credit: Doug Farrow

Back to work legislation for B.C. teachers was the only way forward, said Premier Christy Clark following a speaking engagement in Kelowna.

"This isn't a situation that anyone wanted. (Education Minister) George Abbott worked hard, he negotiated in good faith and he was extremely patient," Clark said, on the heels of news that Abbott had asked his staff to work through the weekend preparing  legislation aimed at ending a labour dispute.

"There were 75 meetings and no movement on a $2 billion request for wage increases — that's not good enough. We're in a tough economic environment and I'm not going to tax payers to ask for more money to give teachers a raise."

Clark went on to point out that when teachers refused to budge on the wage increase  issue, it stalled negotiations on other areas of the contract, leaving  back to work legislation the only option.

"I think parents and students are fed up with this," she said, noting students need their report cards.

"I don't feel like it's serving the people we all care about the most, students, very well."

Teachers across the province have been taking part in ongoing job action since September, when contract talks between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the province’s bargaining agent, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, broke down last summer.

A report by assistant deputy minister for industrial relations Trevor Hughes, stating a negotiated settlement between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the government’s bargaining agent, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association, would be unlikely is what prompted Abbott's change in tack.

Teachers have been without a contract since June.

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