Classes could be cancelled in the Saanich School District beginning Monday because of a labour dispute.
Education assistants, clerical workers, counsellors and other members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 441 have served 72-hour strike notice and are scheduled to start a full withdrawal of services Monday starting at 5:45 a.m.
Should the strike proceed, it’s expected that teachers will not cross any picket lines, district superintendent Dave Eberwein said. “If that’s the case, we’ll only have school administrators in and we will be unable to supervise students adequately, so we’re asking parents to keep their kids at home.”
Parents with children in child-care programs located inside schools should contact the programs directly for information.
Despite the strike notice, job action could still be avoided, CUPE 441 president Dean Coates said.
“We have told the employer that we are available around the clock to negotiate, to try and reach an agreement to avoid the strike.”
The union represents about 500 support staff and has been in a position to serve 72-hour strike notice since a vote in August.
Coates said the issue is wages, specifically the difference between the Saanich local and those in neighbouring school districts. For example, a specialized CUPE education assistant in the Saanich district earned $21.61 per hour as of the last contract, while a similar worker in the Sooke district makes $25.28, and one in the Greater Victoria district is paid $25.20 an hour.
Coates said the disparity has existed for decades and members are “profoundly disappointed” there has been no agreement.
The union and the district went through six bargaining sessions and had two sessions with a mediator in an effort to get a deal.
Eberwein said the district, with about 8,000 students, is also open to more negotiation, “with the understanding that we are obligated to bargain within the provincial mandate.”
The amount of funding available to school districts to bargain with is set by the province, he said.
“We are perpetually optimistic that we will reach a negotiated agreement,” Eberwein said. “I think that’s really the only mindset to have going into it.”
Updates will be posted at sd63.bc.ca.