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Picket lines up at schools in 17 BC districts today

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – More than half a million students could be out of class over the week in BC, as teachers begin rotating strikes today.

Day One includes schools in Vancouver, New Westminster and Mission, among others.

The strikes also trigger a partial lock-out, which has many parents worrying about what the labour dispute means for extra-curricular activities, with each side offering a different take.

The BC Teachers’ Federation has said the partial lockout being imposed by employers today means they’re barred from being at school 45 minutes before or after class, meaning teachers will be blocked from all extra curricular activities, sporting events, and grad prep.

Outside a closed school in East Vancouver this morning, we asked BCTF President Jim Iker to clarify what the union is telling teachers. He wouldn’t directly answer the question, saying the employers are causing confusion.

“There are issues that need to be dealt with for our members. We also have to keep our members safe, including [during] voluntary work,” says Iker.

“Rescind the lockout letter. Let’s stop the confusion, the chaos. Let’s get a deal at the bargaining table,” he adds.

But in a letter to Iker yesterday, the BC Public School Employers Association says that is not the case. The employers state there are no restrictions whatsoever on participation in extra curricular and volunteer activities on school property or off; it is only paid work that is affected.

Iker wouldn’t talk about what the next level of job action will look like. “When we’re ready to make a decision to go to a next level of action, we will have another province-wide vote with our members. That’s what we have said.”

In a release, Education Minister Peter Fassbender slams the BCTF.

“Not only did the union refuse to stand down from its stage 1 strike, a few days later they dismissed the significant moves that BCPSEA made at the table, and informed students and parents that they would shut down schools through rotating strikes.”

“We want to see a negotiated settlement and BCPSEA is ready to bargain 24/7, anytime, anywhere.”

Pickets are up in 17 districts in BC today, with approximately the same number affected by the rotating walkout tomorrow. In all, 60 districts are slated to be out for one day each between today and Thursday.

Both sides are due back at the bargaining table this afternoon to try to make some progress on the main issues of wages, class size, and composition.

Click here to find a full list of planned public school closures, by district.