Saanich School District 63 (SD63) and support staff union CUPE Local 441 are back at the bargaining table on Monday Nov. 4 as a district-wide strike for pay parity with other local school districts continues into a second week. The school district and the union will meet for a second time Monday afternoon, following an informal meeting in the morning.
There is a media blackout in place for the negotiations, meaning neither side is allowed to give media details about what’s happening during negotiations. Representatives from both the union and the school district said they would honor the media blackout to minimize distractions and reach a resolution faster.
President of CUPE Local 441 Dean Coates said on Monday that the union was feeling positive about the support they have received from parents. He said parents are planning a rally in support of the union for Friday Nov. 8.
Vexed parents are putting the heat on the provincial government to get kids back in school with the help of a Change.org petition. The petition gained more than 1,000 signatures in 72 hours, Coates said.
Coates also said he hopes union members can get back to work soon. “The cause is righteous and we carry forward, we hope for a speedy end to negotiations,” Coates said.
Superintendent of the Saanich school district, Dave Eberwein, said he acknowledges how “frustrating and exasperating” this strike is for parents, students, teachers, support staff. “The important thing to remember is that as as school district, we need to stay focused on what we can do. We can’t control what the provincial government can do, we have to focus on what we can do at the local bargaining table,” Eberwein said.
The province is evaluating the discrepancies in pay, job description and responsibilities for all workers under the provincial framework. For each of the school districts in the province, there are different job descriptions, job requirements, qualifications and responsibilities for each role covered by the provincial framework. This includes clerical staff, janitors, and the Saanich support staff who are currently striking.
Eberwein said because there are many jobs to evaluate, this process is lengthy and complex. Saanich became one of the first school districts to sign on to the Job Evaluation project about a year ago. “We want to get an agreement ratified, then let this provincial process play out,” said Eberwein.
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