Ashley Martin, here with her son, is one of the organizers of Family Rallying to Support CUPE 441. (Ashley Martin/Submitted)

Saanich Peninsula families to rally in support of striking CUPE members in Brentwood Bay, Sidney

Organizers expect 300 attendees at Friday’s rally

An organizer expects about 300 parents will show their support for striking support workers in School District No. 63 (SD63) tomorrow.

“These are all parents, who are in support of wage equality,” said Ashley Martin, one of the organizers of Family Rallying to Support CUPE 441.

The rally takes place at two locations on the Saanich Peninsula: Brentwood Elementary School, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and at Sidney Elementary School from 12:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Martin said the rally has two goals. “First, we want to support CUPE in getting a fair wage, so that we do not continue to lose [educational assistants] and other support staff to other districts, which is a humongous issue.” Martin said the second goal of the rally is to put pressure on district officials to offer striking workers a fair deal now, so that children can return to school.”

RELATED: ‘No option’ to fix pay parity at local bargaining table: SD63 superintendent

READ MORE: Pay disparity at heart of Saanich schools strike has 45-year-old roots

Tomorrow’s rally comes after three days of bargaining earlier this week broke down with both sides in the dispute appearing to grow further apart.

Dave Eberwein, SD63’s superintendent, said fixing the pay parity issue at the local bargaining table is not an available option in accusing the leadership of CUPE 441 of offering their members what he called “false hope.”

Eberwein said two pools of money are in play: the two per cent wage increases each year for three years plus benefits under the Provincial Framework Agreement, and money from the provincial Job Evaluation Committee, which is currently assessing pay and other disparities between similar jobs across the province.

Eberwein said the district has shuffled things around within its salary and benefits budget to increase wages more than two per cent each year for SD63 support workers, and that is all they have the power to do.

Dean Coates, CUPE Local 441 president, said CUPE members do not think they should have to fund their own wage increases in calling on the provincial government to help achieve pay parity, which he pegged between $1 and $3 million. That’s “peanuts,” he said.

Martin said the current dynamics have only increased support for tomorrow’s rally and heightened its imperative.

“Unless CUPE [411] gets the same wage, we will continue to have the same problem, and we will continue to lose [staff],” she said. “We feel that they should not budge. Budging is not going to solve the problem.”

Martin said parents part of her group feel very frustrated by the strike. “The struggle is real,” she said. “We feel for the families, we feel for the teachers, who wanted to be teaching, and who are also losing out,” she said. “We look at it as short-term pain for long-term gain. Unless CUPE [411] gets wage parity, this problem is going to continue.”


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