VANCOUVER, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- Tuesday was supposed to be the first day of a new school term for the public school students in the Canadian province of British Columbia, but the schools remained shut down due to a province-wide strike by the teachers.
More than 550,000 students were affected by the strike, resulting from a breakdown in contract negotiations between the provincial government and the teachers union. On Saturday, an independent mediator walked out of the last-minute negotiations.
The teacher's union represents about 30,000 teachers who staff some 1,600 public schools in the province.
Students and parents are showing their frustration to both the government and the union, whom have been blaming each other for the long impasse. It was a first time for the teachers' strike in the province to have spilt over from one school year to another.
As for the bargaining, the government was offering a seven-percent wage increase for teachers while the latter were asking for an eight-percent.
Another deadlock in the negotiation was the class size. The teachers were asking for more funds so that the schools can hire more teachers and reduce the class size, which the government did not agree.
As the new school year began, B.C.'s education ministry announced on Monday that the government would not budge on its offer, nor would it force the teachers back to work, which meant the students could be out of the classroom for a long time.
Hundreds of Students in Vancouver, the province's biggest city, gathered at the city's public art gallery on Tuesday to blast both sides of the dispute. They complained the feeling of being caught in the middle, and had to get their education halted, while the dispute between government and the union has increasingly become a heated political battle.
Cole Poirier, a grade 12 student, told Xinhua that there should be a "third party" in the dispute -- the students and their parents.
"We're very dramatically affected by this strike, especially with the lockouts at the end of June, and finally the cancellation of summer school. It's been very detrimental," he said.
Dana Petric, mother of a first-grade student, said she was very furious at the negotiators.
"During the summer time, there was no negotiation going on until the last week of August," she said angrily.
Leslie Johnston, a Vancouver science teacher, also expressed her frustration with Xinhua.
"This is the longest I've ever been on strike and I've been teaching for 26 years in the school. I don't expect to be off school this long. I think both sides are really entrenched and I don't have a lot of hope for anything happening soon," she said gloomily.