Support staff from School District 63 (SD63) are on strike for the 11th school day in a row since job action began on Oct. 28. Frustrations are running high on all sides, and parents plan to picket in front of the district offices on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 11 a.m. This is the second time parents will come together in a week also picketing alongside support staff on Friday, Nov. 8.
The Confederation of Parents’ Advisory Councils of Saanich (COPACS) wrote to the provincial government on Monday, Nov. 11, to ask them to step in and help bring the job action to a resolution. The letter stated it’s “clearly evident the District and CUPE 441 do not have the tools and resources within the confines of the Provincial Framework Agreement to address the unique situation found in Saanich.”
School support staff (such as educational assistants, secretaries, bus drivers and janitors) earn less than their counterparts with comparable jobs in neighbouring school districts such as Victoria and Sooke. This has resulted in what CUPE Local 441 members call a “mass exodus” of support staff from SD63 to other districts where they can earn more, leaving the district with staff shortages.
This pay disparity has a long history, the result of bargaining involving the same union and employer more than 40 years ago. At the time, CUPE Local 441 settled for moderate wage increases and a satisfactory benefits package and went back to work while the rest of the province went on strike. Most of the rest of the province was able to secure higher increases, and the gap has only grown over the years.
The rally takes place at the SD63 offices on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 2125 Keating Cross Rd. in Central Saanich from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. rain or shine. The group organizing the rally, Families Supporting CUPE 441, says it’s an opportunity for community members to have their voices heard, but also to celebrate the people who help get their kids to school safely and those who help teach them as well.