A tentative deal has been reached between striking B.C. teachers and the province, the teachers’ union and B.C. government announced Tuesday.

The B.C. Teachers Federation said details of the deal would not yet be released.

The announcement came after five days of talks with the help of mediator Vince Ready, the most intense discussions since job action began in the spring.

“I’m not at liberty to release any of the details, nor are the parties,” Mr. Ready told reporters early Tuesday outside the Delta Hotel in Richmond, B.C. “The parties are going to meet later this morning and finalize a few of the outstanding details, but generally speaking, there has been a tentative agreement initialized by the parties and that’s really all I got to say at this point.”

B.C. teachers’ union president Jim Iker and government negotiator Peter Cameron met face-to-face at least once, but a media blackout means only a general picture is available of what is going on based on accounts from negotiators who have been in similar situations.

In this dispute, the government and the union were far apart on the issue of wages and benefits, with the government insisting the province’s 41,000 teachers could not exceed its standard offer to public sector workers: wage increases of 5.5 per cent over five years.

Negotiated settlements between the teachers’ union and government are rare – since moving to a province-wide bargaining model 20 years ago, only two agreements have been reached through collective bargaining.

Many of British Columbia’s 68,000 classrooms, abandoned in mid-June, could be reopened within 24 hours if teachers vote to end their strike. A smooth and orderly return to the new school year, however, will take longer.

In some of the province’s 60 school districts, custodians have cleaned the vacant classrooms. In other cases, picket lines meant no maintenance was done, and it may take more time to open schools.

The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Sep. 16 2014, 7:30 AM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Sep. 16 2014, 9:24 AM EDT