Abbotsford students walk out in response to teachers’ escalating job action

Students raise concerns about impact of rotating strikes on their education

Cameron Honeyman

Cameron Honeyman

As teachers continue their escalating job action across the province, students from schools across Abbotsford were out on the streets as part of a province-wide student walkout.

Many youngsters and teens were out on the streets, some holding up signs about the impact of the job action on students. Others remained in their classrooms for the only day this week when teachers across the province are not holding rotating strikes.

In the second week of walk-outs across B.C., teachers are also not supervising during lunch and before and after school.

In Abbotsford, teachers were on picket lines on May 28 and will be out again tomorrow (Thursday). It is unclear if the rotating strikes will continue next week.

Phase one of the job action began in April, with teachers ceasing to perform non-essential duties, including attending meetings and communication with management, as well as providing extra supervision. The rotating walk-outs are phase two of the plan, with phase three, a full-scale strike, requiring a second vote by union members.

The government has said it is offering a 7.3 per cent wage increase over six years, while the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) were asking for 13.7 per cent over four years. The union is also advocating for provisions on class size and composition.

Today, BCTF announced that it has trimmed its demands for a pay increase by one per cent over the four years.

Robyn McGenn, a Grade 11 student at W.J. Mouat Secondary, said she understands teachers’ requests for better pay and smaller class sizes, but she said the walkout gives students a voice to express how the job action is affecting them.

McGenn said she is concerned about missing more classes, as provincial exams are coming up and there is little review time.

Shaye Maudsley, a Grade 10 student at Yale Secondary School, stood on the road outside her school with a sign that read, “I’m failing math because of this.”

She said that due to the partial lockout of teachers, she can’t get the extra math assistance she needs.

While a lot of students think the walkout is a reason to skip class, she said she wants to express that while she is supportive of teachers, the job action has “gone too far.”

The school district sent out a notice to parents on Tuesday, stating the student walkout activities are not sanctioned by the district or schools, and parents must be aware there are safety concerns for students who leave school premises.