Douglas Fraser, a Grade 3 teacher at Keating Elementary, Laurel Klipper, a grandma supporting CUPE, Mikalyn Klipper, a Grade 3 student at Keating Elementary, and Ruth Cartwright, and EA at Sidney Elementary walk the picket line together. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

Saanich parents, students, and teachers joined CUPE members on the picket line on Friday

‘Our education system is starved for support,’ says concerned parent and teacher

Parents, students and teachers rallied alongside striking support workers in the Saanich School District on Friday.

Two rallies took place on the Saanich Peninsula – one at Brentwood Elementary School and another at Sidney Elementary School. Approximately 200 people attended the morning rally and about 100 came to show their support in the afternoon.

School bells continued to go off throughout the day despite there being no students on the campus.

The parents are looking to support CUPE Local 441 members in getting wage parity with the other south Island districts. In an effort to demonstrate their support, parents, students and teachers joined the CUPE members on the picket line.

READ ALSO: Saanich Peninsula families to rally in support of striking CUPE members in Brentwood Bay, Sidney

“We live in the best place in the world and out education should be the best,” said Carla Coppock, a Kindergarten teacher at Sidney Elementary whose children also go to school in the district.

She explained that the district is underfunded and has so few support workers that staff have to choose which child gets assistance each day, meaning that others are getting left behind.

“Our education system is starved for support,” she said.

Mom Anita Spady joined the Friday afternoon rally with two of her children – Ollie, Grade 4, and Zara, Grade 1. She noted that they’ve been sad about not going to school. She tried to explain the strike and what the union is fighting for, but they don’t quite understand.

“We’ve had teary mornings,” said Spady.

After three days of bargaining with SD63 earlier this week, negotiations broke down on Tuesday and the CUPE strike continues.

READ ALSO: Saanich teachers honour CUPE picket line while BCTF negotiates for new teacher contract

SD63 superintendent Dave Eberwein said the provincial government will not be reopening the Provincial Framework Agreement under which school districts, unions and employees negotiate pay and benefits. Eberwein said reopening the agreement just for Saanich would mean other districts are entitled to have their frameworks reopened as well.

CUPE Local 441 president Dean Coates, however, is asking the province to step in – something Eberwein says is giving union members “false hope” that the agreement will be reopened.

Eberwein said the district has shuffled things around to increase wages more than two per cent each year for SD63 support workers but Coates said CUPE members do not think they should have to fund their own wage increases.

Parent rally organizer Ashley Martin said families see the strike as “short-term pain for long-term gain.” She added that unless CUPE gets wage parity the problem will continue.

With files from Wolfgang Depner.


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Carley Hollomon stands on the CUPE picket line with her children Reid, 9, Graham, 7 and Aleena, 5. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

Douglas Fraser, a Grade 3 teacher at Keating Elementary, Laurel Klipper, a grandma supporting CUPE, Ruth Cartwright, and EA at Sidney Elementary, and Mikalyn Klipper, a Grade 3 student at Keating Elementary, walk the picket line together. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

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