British Columbia

Saanich students still out of school on Tuesday as strike enters 3rd week

More than 7,000 students in Saanich on Vancouver Island will not be returning to their classrooms on Tuesday as job action involving support workers enters a third week. 

7,000 students out of class as negotiations over wages continue

Support staff in the Saanich School District have been off work for three weeks, leaving 7,000 students without classes. (CHEK News)

More than 7,000 students in Saanich on Vancouver Island will not be returning to their classrooms on Tuesday as job action involving support workers enters a third week. 

On Oct. 28, educational assistants, custodians, bus drivers and other support staff represented by CUPE Local 441 started picketing at Saanich School District schools. Teachers have refused to cross picket lines, so classes have been out ever since.

The main issue at hand is wage parity, as support staff in Saanich are paid less than their counterparts in neighbouring districts like Greater Victoria.

Elsie McMurphy, vice chair of the Saanich board of education, said the offer the board is making to support staff is "one of the best possible offers in the province."
    
"At this point we are hoping that the CUPE members will take another look at the offer the board has made," she said. 

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 441 president Dean Coates said the union hopes the board will return to the negotiating table.

"Just as you we have children here, we're just as worried about their education," he said.

"But we're frustrated with this employer for wasting opportunities to meet to negotiate to find a settlement, especially over this long weekend would have been a perfect opportunity, but the employer is refusing to even reply to our emails."

Coates said that low wages are a decades-old problem that causes recruitment and retention problems with staff. 

With files from CHEK News

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