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Teachers return to picket lines

Teachers across British Columbia are expected to be behind picket lines today in an attempt to pressure the province into speeding up negotiations and end an ongoing strike before school starts.

Union president Jim Iker said at a leadership conference yesterday that teachers are willing to enter into mediation today if the government is ready to make it happen.

Earlier this month, veteran mediator Vince Ready agreed to monitor the dispute between public school employers and the BC Teachers' Federation, and to enter into full mediation if it would be productive.

The two sides had agreed to shut down public discussion, but both Education Minister Peter Fassbender and Iker appear to have broken the agreement by speaking to the media recently.

The province's 40,000 teachers launched a strike two weeks before the end of the school year, calling for higher wages and improved class sizes and composition.

The government has said teachers' wage increases must be affordable and in line with agreements signed by other public servants.

The Canadian Press

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