The provincial government has chosen to fight fire with fire.

In response to the escalation of job action from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) initiated a lockout of B.C. teachers on Monday.

The move comes as the BCTF decided to implement phase two of its job action on Monday, which began rotating one-day strikes in groups of the province’s 60 school districts.

The teachers of School District 58 will walk the picket line this Thursday.

School District 58 chairman Gordon Comeau said parents should not send their children to school on Thursday.

He said during the strike, there will be administrators stationed at the schools.

BCPSEA public administrator Michael Marchbank stated in a letter to the BCTF last week that the lockout was a response to the union’s first two strike phases and its effort to seek pay increases it says are higher than in other public sector settlements.

Between now and June 25, the lockout involves a reduction of job responsibilities as well as pay cuts.

So far, the district track meet, MSS Holocaust field trip, Grade 5 tree planting and school district powwow have already been cancelled as a result of the labour dispute, Comeau told the Herald.

Comeau said these events have been cancelled because they have a curricular aspect to them.

Paid work being conducted during recess, lunch or 45 minutes before or after the school day is prohibited under the lockout, Comeau said.

Teacher salaries were cut by five per cent effective May 26 and reduced further to 10 per cent in response to the strikes.

Comeau said it is his understanding that a portion of the salaries taken back is returned to the province, but school districts may be allowed to keep a small portion.

Suspending some teachers’ duties and reducing their work hours is the basis for the pay cut, Marchbank said in the letter.

That letter also stated this work reduction is a reflection of the work not being done in accordance with phase one of the union’s job action.

The phase one job action that the letter refers to is teachers refusing to participate in meetings with administrators, communicate with them via written or electronic communications and provide usual supervision other than what’s required under the essential services order.

Also under phase one, teachers were not to be at work more than one hour before the start of school or one hour after the end of the instructional day.

Comeau told the Herald that the BCPSEA has reduced that by 15 minutes at the start and end of the work day, and teachers are now not to arrive at school more than 45 minutes before the start of classes or more than 45 minutes after the end of classes.

Teachers are also being told by the BCPSEA that they are not to work during recess and lunch.

Nicola Valley Teachers’ Union president Peter Vogt said he doesn’t understand how the government can jump from a five to 10 per cent cut.

“The teachers are paid on salary, so how do you determine how much of the duties of a teacher a teacher is not performing given that teachers are teachers 24 hours a day?” Vogt said. “We work on stuff all the time.”

Comeau said that essentially, teachers are being docked the 10 per cent based on any paid work they might do during recess, lunch and the 15 minute difference in the morning and afternoon they are not to be working.

“They’re not forbidden from doing it, that’s where the confusion is. What they employer’s saying is they’re not going to pay them to do it in that portion of the day,” Comeau said. “What they choose to do in that period of time that’s up to them, but they won’t be paid to do it. That’s the part they’re locked out for, that portion of the day, that portion of the work.”

The lockout is being implemented gradually, with full-scale lockouts of secondary schools on June 25 and 26.

Middle schools containing Grade 7 classes or lower won’t be affected.

However, if June 27 passes without an agreement in place, the full-scale lockout will extend to elementary school teachers.

Comeau said final and provincial exams will still be marked regardless of strike action.

“Who marks them may be another issue, but they will be marked,” Comeau said.

He said if teachers are not able to mark them for reasons of strike or lockout, qualified people will be brought in to mark.

Report cards are still expected to be marked following exams, Comeau said.

Comeau said teachers are not paid for extracurricular work.

The BCTF has filed a notice with the Labour Relations Board claiming the lockout and pay deductions are not legal.

The board will hear their case on May 29, and until then, Vogt said they are advising teachers not to participate in any extracurricular activities or field trips.

According to the BCPSEA, teachers are still welcome to take part in extracurricular or other voluntary activities. A question and answer document on their website states teachers can continue their involvement with extracurricular activities and can be on school property at any time for those purposes as the 45-minute limitation applies only to paid work.

The document also states teachers are allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies, extracurricular field trips, concerts, awards, proms, sporting events and other year-end celebrations that take place outside of regular school hours.

“It’s something they choose to do. If they want to coach basketball, that’s their choice. They can’t be forced to do it and they can’t be forced not to do it, it’s just something they choose to do,” Comeau said.

Vogt told the Herald there is confusion surrounding what is considered a curricular activity and what is considered an extracurricular activity.

“It’s difficult for us to know exactly what it is they are telling us,” Vogt said.

Vogt said he isn’t sure how the employer distinguishes between what activities teachers get paid for and what they do not get paid for.

“The reality is, why would I, as a teacher, want to continue with my extracurricular activities when you’re cutting my salary?” Vogt said.

Vogt also told the Herald the union is advising teachers to leave school property during recess and lunch.

“As a teacher, it’s inevitable that if you stay on site during recess and lunch time, that other activities are going to take place. You can’t help it. Kids are going to come see you,” Vogt said.

The BCPSEA states it is seeking an agreement by the end of the school year.

Comeau said he hopes the two sides can come up with an agreement that lasts at least five or six years.

“There’s not too many negotiated settlements that last for long periods of time, so it’d really be nice to see a five or six year term contract that everybody can live with and then we can just get on with what our purpose is [and that is] to educate kids,” Comeau said.

B.C. teachers have been without a new contract since June 2013.