Matthew and Jack Armstrong at North Saanich Middle School support CUPE Local 441 members on strike on Oct. 29. They made their way to Parkland Secondary as well. (Annilee Armstrong/Submitted)

Bargaining resumes in Saanich School District strike, classes still cancelled

Picket lines still up as CUPE Local 441 and SD63 resume negotiations

The Saanich School District, the Board of Education and CUPE Local 441 resumed negotiations on Friday.

The support workers’ strike is ongoing as bargaining continues. Picket lines remain and classes are still cancelled.

“We are very pleased that we have found agreement with CUPE to recommence bargaining, within the provincial mandate with determines our contract parameters,” said Elsie McMurphy, Board of Education vice-chair, in a statement. “We remain hopeful that we will be able to conclude an agreement on our common concerns of wage parity, recruitment and retention.”

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.

READ ALSO: SD63 international students attend optional programming during strike

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 government insisted that 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.

McMurphy cautioned that while negotiations have resumed, bargaining has not yet come to a conclusion. 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 positions that have fallen behind the most like education assistants and other clerical, secretarial and school support positions.

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

The proposals will also still provide wage increases for all support staff in excess of the six per cent over the three-year term of the agreement. This will fall in line with other settlements in school districts and other employee groups in the province, according to the Board of Education.

“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.”

CUPE Local 441 said the local will not be making any media comment during bargaining, which is expected to begin Friday afternoon according to a media statement.

“Both parties recognize how difficult this strike has been for families and students in Saanich, as well as for our members and teachers,” said CUPE Local 441 president Dean Coates. “Local 441 is committed to working hard to reach a deal that meets the needs of our students and members so that we can be back in classes this Monday.”

Parents are encouraged to check the Saanich School District website regularly for updated information.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


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