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WATCH: “Sad day for teachers” says Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union

PENTICTON — Today was supposed to be the first day of school, instead, the prolonged labour dispute canceled classes.

Talks between the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and provincial government collapsed over the weekend, affecting the start of the fall semester.

“This is the first time in history that BC teachers that haven’t gone back and welcomed back our kids into our classrooms,” says Leslea Woodward, President of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union. “So it’s a sad day for teachers.”

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Teachers have been on a full-scale job action since June 17, and they are not getting strike pay for being on the picket line.

“They’ve given up an earning, so that they can be out here fighting for what’s  right,” says Woodward.

Over the weekend, mediator Vince Ready declared an impasse because the BCTF and government are still too far apart on key issues, such as wages and class conditions.

“I’m so disappointed. I find blame on both sides,” says Bruce Johnson, Chair of the Okanagan Skaha School Board. “I know the government has been accused of being a bully, ignoring court orders and taking an unreasonable hard line on the educators.”

Johnson is also critical of the teachers’ demands, calling them unrealistic.

“That’s why I say: take a reasonable raise, take it for a number of years, put the rest into our learning improvement funds and let’s get going!”

Superintendent Wendy Hyer would also like to see schools back in session.

“I’m hoping that common sense prevails,  and the two sides get together and we focus on providing quality education to students,” she says.

It looks like students may not go back to school in the immediate future.

No new talks have been scheduled between the BCTF and government