Negotiators for the B.C. Teachers' Federation and school districts are meeting Friday for the first time since schools were shuttered by a strike in late June, and Education Minister Peter Fassbender expects new proposals from both sides.
Fassbender said Tuesday it's the first meeting of full bargaining teams in more than a month, and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association has some "new concepts" to bring to the discussion.
"We've already demonstrated our willingness to move on some key elements," he said. "We need to see the same from the BCTF. They've indicated they're willing to do that."
He wouldn't comment on the new proposals, except to reiterate that the BCTF's position on benefits and other compensation is not in the "affordability zone" established by other public sector union agreements.
If the strike shuts schools again in September, the government plans to use the savings to compensate parents $40 a day for each child under 13 in public school, to assist with daycare or tutoring costs. Fassbender said there would be no conditions attached to the payout.
"My hope is that there isn't a nickel available as of September, because schools are operating, teachers are back in the classroom, students are there and there is no further disruption," he said.
The B.C. School Trustees' Association has urged the government to direct its $12 million a day in payroll savings from the strike to a fund to address class size and special needs support.
Trustees have also called on the union to moderate its benefit demands, which include parental leave, dental benefits, massage therapy and increased preparation time for elementary school teachers.
BCPSEA has offered $375 million over a six-year contract term to provide extra classroom support, and specified class size limits in the teacher contract, to address key issues in a series of court disputes.