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Teachers and other staff at St. Margaret's School issue strike notice

Members of the Professional Employees Association, representing 47 teachers and 65 support staff at the all-girls private school, have voted 88 per cent in favour of job action
Teachers and staff at St. Margaret's School could go on strike after May 24 if talks with the school stall. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Teachers and support staff at St. Margaret’s School have issued 72-hour strike notice.

The Professional Employees Association, representing 47 teachers and 65 support staff at the all-girls private school, said it reached an impasse in negotiations with the school on April 14. On Friday, 88 per cent of union members voted in favour of job action.

The union won’t move to strike until after a planned mediation session on May 24, said Rhiannon Bray, labour relations officer with the Professional Employees Association. If the union doesn’t make headway during the session, members will put up picket lines and classes will be put on hold, Bray said.

The union said teachers and staff are paid significantly less than their counterparts in B.C. public schools and comparable independent schools. It’s asking for a wage increase in line with inflation and cost of living and help from management with increasing work loads, Bray said.

She said she could not reveal how much of an increase the union is seeking.

The union is also asking to remove a two-tier system that provides a greater wage increase for teachers than for support staff, said Bray, the lead negotiator for the union.

“We’re not interested in a two-tiered wage offer that offers a greater general wage increase to the teachers versus the support staff. We believe all of the workers at St. Margaret’s are equally as important for the overall success of the school,” Bray said.

Union members include teachers, early childhood educators, support staff on the school grounds, office and administration staff, kitchen and laundry facilities and boarding parents.

Mediation dates are set for May 24 and May 29 with a mediator from the Labour Relations Board.

The union and the school are also negotiating to establish essential-service levels that would continue even if staff strike.

The only areas of campus that the union is looking at deeming essential are the boarding houses for students and potentially some kitchen services to care for students in residences, Bray said.

The school said in a statement significant progress has been made with the union in resolving dozens of issues over 14 bargaining sessions.

St. Margaret’s said it offered “significant” pay increases for teachers and support staff, including a signing bonus.

“We will continue to comply with the terms established by the Labour Relations Board and look forward to meeting with a mediator on May 24 as we seek an appropriate resolution to these negotiations,” said head of school Sharon Klein.

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