VANCOUVER, May 26 (Xinhua) -- More than 41,000 teachers in west Canada's British Columbia started their rotating strikes Monday, demanding higher pays and smaller classes.
The British Columbia Teachers' Federation (BCTF) has divided the province into four zones. In accordance with the strike schedule, public elementary and high schools in every district will take turns to be closed one day over the course of four days of the rotating strike week. It is estimated half a million students will be affected.
Classes will resume fully across the province Friday.
Teachers in British Columbia are said to be the second-lowest paid in the country. In negotiations with the government over the past few months, the government was offering a 7.3 percent wage increase over six years while the teachers insisted a 13.7 percent rise over the next four years. Also, classes in British Columbia are larger than other parts of the country.
BCTF president Jim Iker joined teachers on the picket line in Vancouver on Monday morning before heading out to join contract negotiations scheduled to resume in the afternoon. But the two sides appeared to be far apart.
Peter Fassbender, educational minister of British Columbia, was critical of the teachers' decision to initiate the strikes.
"It is unfortunate that the BCTF leadership is shutting down schools with their rotating strikes," Fassbender said in the statement. "It is always students and parents who bear the greatest brunt when the BCTF orders teachers to walk out."
Iker said that if there is no progress in talks this week, another round of rotating strikes could follow starting next Monday. The government, however, warned that the teachers, whether striking or in class, risk 10 percent salary cuts if the strike goes ahead.