Thousands of students will miss yet another day of classes on Monday as negotiations continue between the Saanich School District and CUPE Local 441.
The support workers’ strike began on Oct. 28, classes have been cancelled since and picket lines are still in place.
On Oct. 21, the union local served a 72-hour strike notice to SD63 after two unsuccessful mediation sessions. CUPE Local 441 represents nearly 500 workers and includes education assistants, support staff, library techs, youth and family counsellors and clerical, custodial, grounds, maintenance, transportation and trades staff.
Members of the local are looking to secure wage parity with other south Island school districts. The members are paid less than their counterparts due to a decision made over 40 years ago by CUPE Local 441 to choose increased benefits over a higher salary. While the union has called on the province to step in and help find a resolution, the provincial government insisted SD63 and CUPE Local 441 negotiate within terms set out by the public framework agreement, a B.C. mandate for compensation and other key sector matters in which local bargaining occurs.
“We remain hopeful that we will be able to conclude an agreement on our common concerns of wage parity, recruitment and retention,” said Elsie McMurphy, Saanich board of education vice-chair, in a statement on Friday.
An offer has been put on the table by the board “which distributes the maximum funding available in a manner which reduces the greatest difference between us and our neighbours,” McMurphy said.
The offer seeks to fix inequalities by applying larger wage increases to education assistants and other clerical, secretarial and school support positions.
“We are very aware of the impact of this job action of families, students and staff,” McMurphy said. “We wanted everyone to know that we are still working diligently to get our schools open as quickly as possible.”
Parents are encouraged to check the Saanich School District website regularly for updated information.