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B.C. government, teachers approach mediator

VANCOUVER - The British Columbia government is hoping to hear back from a veteran mediator this weekend to find out if he is available to help end the province's teachers strike.

Peter Cameron, the province's chief negotiator, says the two sides are asking if Vince Ready may be available for a conference call which could come as early as Sunday, but Ready has yet to respond.

Ready is widely considered one of Canada's top labour troubleshooters and the teachers union floated his name on Friday as someone who could move things forward.

But Cameron cautions if the union doesn't change its monetary demands mediation would be pointless.

The government says teachers want wage increases and benefits amounting to a 14.5 per cent hike, but educators say they only want an eight per cent salary boost and a signing bonus.

Teachers also want the province to set aside $225 million every year for a fund to hire teachers.

Efforts to settle the dispute ran onto the rocks on Friday when the independent facilitator who spent more than a year trying to broker a deal resigned.

Mark Brown stepped aside after the B.C. Teachers Federation demanded mediation.

The strike shut down public schools last week, affecting half a million students.

Note to readers: A previous version of the story wrongly stated that both sides were asking for a meeting. In fact, they were asking for a conference call.

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