The union representing support staff workers at Saanich School District 63 have issued a strike notice in a letter to parents on Thursday.
After bargaining with the school district on six occasions, an overwhelming majority of CUPE 441 members have voted to take job action if necessary and are now in a position to serve 72-hour strike notice to the school district.
According to union President Dean Coates, workers in School District 63 are demanding comparable wages to their counterparts in Victoria and Sooke, who have received higher wages for decades.
There are nearly 500 K-12 workers in CUPE 441 who fill a range of roles including Education Assistants, Technical Support staff, Library Techs, Youth and Family Counsellors, Clerical, Custodial, Grounds, Maintenance, Transportation, Trades, and District support staff.
In response to the strike notice, SD63 Board of Education Vice-Chair Elsie McMurphy stated that while the issue of wage competitiveness remains a concern to the board, it’s important to ensure that students’ education is not interrupted by a labour dispute.
Over the course of negotiations with the union, the Board proposed reallocating funds to provide CUPE441 workers with wage increases in excess of 6% over three years, in compliance with the compensation mandate established by the BC government for public sector bargaining.
“With this proposal, those jobs that are the farthest behind our neighbours in terms of hourly wage would receive a larger additional wage increase than jobs that are less affected,” said McMurphy.
However, Coates says this does not meet the needs of union members, especially given that the school district recently began paying managers and administrators comparable wages.
“We want them to also recognize and value the contribution of support staff in Saanich schools.”