VICTORIA - First, the main point. Teachers and government should both accept Vince Ready's recommendations - without conditions - and get the schools open.
Ready addresses the concerns of both sides, and gives both a face-saving way out of the deadlock.
Teachers don't get a wage increase, but that was never a realistic demand after other public sector unions accepted a two-year freeze.
But they still get more money, in a way Premier Gordon Campbell says the government can live with.
And the union has won an acknowledgment that there are problems in the classroom, and addressed them through the bargaining process, something the government had denied through most of the negotiations..
All in, Ready's proposals will mean the government will come up with $105 million to address teachers' concerns, without any increase to the salary grid.
Ready agreed there's a problem with class sizes and composition for kids in Grades 4 and above. Some classes are too big for children to learn, and include too many students with special needs who aren't getting help. The government should spend $20 million - enough to hire about 320 more teachers - to fix some of the problems, Ready says.
That's a gain for the teachers. The Liberals have maintained those issues can't be addressed through collective bargaining, and that it's the government responsibility to ensure effective learning conditions. Ready is confirming the government hasn't done the job.
Ready also proposes a $40-million injection to "harmonize salary grids" in the province, a measure that both sides supported but couldn't agree on in negotiations. That will mean raises for some teachers.
The BC Teachers' Federation would get an extra$40 million for its long-term disability fund. (Teachers want the government to pay a share of LTD premiums; the government doesn't want to. This is a one-time compromise.)
And supply teachers will get $5 million in improved pay.
It's far less than teachers wanted, far more than the government was prepared to do before the strike.
The money package will probably disappoint some school boards. Campbell emphasized in a Friday morning press conference that the government isn't putting any new cash into the system. The $105 million will come from the savings - about $150 million - that have flowed from not paying teachers for almost two weeks. Some districts hoped much of that money would stay with them for local priorities.
Ready supports the idea of a Learning Round Table, offered by the government on the eve of the strike as a forum for discussing issues like class size.
But he says the government's plan for a forum with equal representation from the BCTF, school trustees, parent advisory councils, superintendents and school administrators, would give teachers two of 10 seats. Not enough, says Ready, and the government has agreed to add more.
The union and government should also be meeting regularly to discuss teaching issues, Ready says. Those talks should include amendments to the School Act to set class size limits for Grades 4 to 12. (Limits were included in the teachers' contract until the Liberals used legislation to remove them in 2002. Limits were added to the School Act for the early grades, but there were only guidelines for average sizes for Grade 4 and up. They haven't worked to protect learning conditions.)
It's a reasonable package. The government has agreed.
But the BCTF is continuing a pattern of incompetent negotiating. Union head Jinny Sims says the union will only accept the recoomendations if the government agrees in writing to amend the School Act by June 30 to include class size limits for the senior grades.
The teachers'mistrust is understandable.
But bargaining is over. Ready has offered both sides a reasonable way out after a nine-day strike, which has hurt teachers, their supporters in other unions and - most importantly - students.
It is ridiculous brinkmanship to risk a longer strike, and more damage, in return for one more concession.
The teachers' union will pay a heavy price in public support if it doesn't accept this settlement.
Footnote: Did it have to come to this? Maybe. Labour disputes have their own pace and rhythm. Sometimes a settlement is not possible until both sides have tested their mutual resolve and bludgeoned into accepting compromise.