B.C. teachers' strike taking toll on support staff

School support staff in B.C. say they are struggling to make ends meet as they walk the picket lines in solidarity with striking B.C. teachers.

Education assistants, janitors, IT staff and others are feeling the pinch as the dispute continues

Workers struggle while they picket in solidarity with teachers 2:10

School support staff in B.C. say they are struggling to make ends meet as they walk the picket lines in solidarity with striking B.C. teachers.

Education assistant Christine Van Kalsbeek says she usually puts money aside in June to see her through July. (CBC)

Picketing CUPE members receive $15 per day for the first nine days of the strike. After that strike pay increases to $75 per day.

Under terms of a recent tentative contract deal of their own, the affected staff will eventually receive back pay to cover their losses, but not until 30 days after that contract is ratified — which could be as late as November 30.

"It's very difficult," Sabine Goertz, a child and youth care worker says. "We actually don't make that much money. The regular child care worker or EA [education assistant] makes between $30-35,000. So for me not to get paid a thousand dollars is quite a bit of money."

New Westminster education assistant Christine Van Kalsbeek has two sons.

She works on a ten month contract, and she says she usually plans ahead, putting money away in June to cover her through July, when her EI kicks in.

"It's just going to be tight over the summer," she says. "Which is tough because the kids are out of school and want to do things."

CUPE 409 president, Marcel Marsolais, says the support staff are really struggling, and the CUPE office has received calls from some members who say there is no food in their fridge.

CUPE 409 President Marcel Marsolais says that some of his members report extreme hardship. (CBC)

He says though no food bank is in place for them now, it is something they may look at putting together by the end of the week.

He says that staff are also concerned at the rising backlog of work piling up, and how that will be managed.

Those on year-round contracts, however, will be quick to organize summer school, should the situation allow it.

"If things get back to somewhat normal next week, and there are no picket lines, CUPE will be working," he says. "We'll try and organize summer school and get it up and running."

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated picketing CUPE members are receiving $75 per day during strike action. While this is true, the story has now been amended to reflect that they received $15 for the first nine days of a strike, and $75 thereafter.
    Jun 25, 2014 10:58 AM PT

With files from Bal Brach

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