SURREY - Despite heavy rain and cold temperatures, teachers across the Surrey and Delta school districts walked off the job on Monday in what teachers are calling a protest.
This latest phase of job action came after teachers voted last week with 87 per cent in favour of escalation in response to a lack of progress in collective bargaining. Teachers have been in a teach-only job action since the beginning of the school year.
"Teachers aren't on traditional pickets," said Denise Moffatt, president of the Surrey Teachers Association. "We are actually doing information and leafleting and demonstration at school sites. Teachers are providing information to the public about the impact of Bill 22."
Moffatt said that teachers are not picketing out other employees or employee groups during this latest phase of action.
Last week, the Labour Relations Board ruled that teachers could walk off the job for three consecutive days and one day a week following that.
Teachers at schools across the Surrey district are taking shifts protesting outside of school grounds until Wednesday this week.
"It's a sacrifice, we're not getting paid today, It's cold, it's wet, I'm sure we would all love to be doing other things but we all believe in this," said Craig Rettie, a first-year special education teacher at Ÿcole Panorama Ridge Secondary.
Rettie admits that when any job action is taken there is always an impact on students.
"I know a lot of parents might look at the leaflet day today and Tuesday and Wednesday and say 'that's not really helping,' but at what point do you not stand up for education and kids," he said.
Problems with class sizes have been an ongoing issue in Surrey because of the increasing population and growth of the city, added Paul Sharples, a special needs teacher at Sullivan Heights Secondary in Surrey.
"I think we feel the pressures more keenly in Surrey because we are growing so rapidly. We just look around the school here, there is so much [development] going on, and we can't expand on this site, four portables is it," said Sharples.
Teachers plan to return to the classroom on Thursday but may continue further walk offs in coming weeks.
"At this point, teachers will comply with the Labour Relations Board order," said Moffatt. "Teachers are in this phase of the job action until either we get a resolution [or] the LRB sets out what it would look like for the next three weeks."
Moffatt hopes that teachers will see some kind of mediated settlement or negotiated resolution in the next few days.
On Friday, a few hundred students at L.A. Matheson Secondary school in Whalley walked out of classes about an hour before the bell Friday afternoon, chanting "students have power" and carrying signs in support of their teachers.
"We're doing this for the teachers to help them out because they're helping us by going on strike," said Harmeet Rattanpal, a Grade 9 student. "By going on strike they're losing their money and stuff, but they're doing it all for us."
Peter Mate, Grade 10, said the students were protesting underfunding, understaffing and budget cuts.
"As a collective voice we hope we can send a message to the government that they just can't take away their money and you have to invest in the future," he said.
- With files from Tom Zytaruk