All schools within the Saanich School District (SD63) remain closed for a second day due to continued job action.
A 45-year-old agreement lies at the root of the strike, which started Monday morning. Schools closed as local Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Local 441) stopped work to achieve pay parity with other local school districts.
Mike Forrester, an educational assistant (EA) at Royal Oak Middle School, and SD63 Superintendent, Dave Eberwein agree there is a historical reason behind the pay disparity. Some 45 years ago, each school district negotiated its own agreements and CUPE didn’t want their members to lose jobs. So, they secured a benefits package and a wage increase they were satisfied with, and went back to work. The rest of the province went on strike and were able to secure larger increases. Forrester said every contract that has expired and been renegotiated since then has only widened the wage gap between Saanich and other districts.
All schools and employees are not crossing the picket line and are prepared to support the strike past the end of the week.
SD63 superintendent Dave Eberwein said Monday he sympathizes with the employees in the district and they have done as much as they can under the provincial government public sector bargaining mandate. He said all school support staff and employers are required to bargain under this agreement. “I believe it’s the richest offer to support staff under the framework,” he added. “We really have tried our best.”
The other two school districts in Greater Victoria, SD61 and SD62, are not impacted by the strike.