Local MLA Adam Olsen (far left), here seen in support of CUPE 441 workers, called the recent strike of support workers in School District No. 63 the most difficult local issue in his political career. (BC Green Party/Submitted)

MLA Adam Olsen says school strike on Saanich Peninsula was ‘toughest’ issue of his career

Olsen also questioned approach of provincial government towards education

Local MLA Adam Olsen called the recent strike of support workers in School District No. 63 the most difficult local issue in his political career.

“It was tough in the sense that you have seen this unjust situation evolve, where [SD63] is at a competitive disadvantage that needs to be dealt with, and as it evolves, the difficulty changes,” said Olsen in a year-end-interview with the Peninsula News Review.

“It evolves from being an unjust system that is potentially going to be perpetuated if they just sign another agreement to the impact that it was having on parents and families.”

RELATED: Union, local MLA agree province should step in to resolve Saanich schools job action

RELATED: Saanich Peninsula parents accuse district of leveraging deadline

Support workers represented by CUPE 441 went on strike between Oct. 28 and Nov. 17, largely over the issue of pay parity.

The strike affected some 7,000 students. It also had a distinct political dimension, as Olsen and New Democratic Education Minister Rob Fleming found themselves trading exchanges in the Legislative Assembly, with Olsen calling on Fleming to resolve the dispute, an appeal that Fleming refused. New Democrats have governed the province as a minority government since summer 2017 with support from three B.C. Greens, including Olsen.

“As government has rightly pointed out, the best place not to negotiate these issues is in the legislature,” said Olsen. The situation in this case impacted a school district that lies mostly within Olsen’s riding of Saanich North and the Islands with some of the school district falling within the riding of New Democrat Lana Popham.

When asked whether the current government would have acted differently if the pay disparity had existed in a school district largely inside a New Democratic riding, Olsen said no.

“I want to say that in the strongest possible term, because I don’t think that this was a partisan issue,” said Olsen. “The issues which Minister Fleming faced were real issues. They are not political. They were what they are, because of the decisions they decided to go with overall. But the conditions still exist.

There is an ongoing teachers negotiations and they were certainly watching this. Because they kept education in the [sustainable services negotiating mandate], there are a whole pile of other public service sectors, who were looking at the results of this.”

By way of background, the sustainable services negotiating mandate applies to all public sector employers with unionized employees whose collective agreements expire on or after Dec. 31, 2018.

The three-year framework mandates wage increases of two per cent in each year and includes a “me too” clause which adjusts other public sector agreements if future public sector agreements go beyond the 2-2-2 rule. Olsen added later that the strike was the “last thing in the world” that Popham wanted to deal with. “There was nothing partisan about this,” he said.

“They weren’t trying to hang me out to dry, and I can tell you, if they were, that would be the most inappropriate thing that anybody can do, because there were far too many people who were hurting. I’m pretty certain that this was not the case.”

This said, Olsen also would like to see a different approach towards public education. “I think I have a fundamentally different perspective on how we should be treating public education than my colleagues in the BC NDP,” he said. “I think we have to ask the question as to whether or not public education should be part of the [sustainable services negotiating mandate], whether or not we should be investing much more in the cornerstone of our society.

“Currently, it is being treated just like everybody else.”

While the province might be getting top global marks for its educational system, Olsen said the system is slowly eroding.

“I happen to be pretty well aware of what’s going in my kids’ classrooms,” he said.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langford ranks as fastest growing community in B.C.

Westshore community grew by 5.2 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018

Highlands councillor designs ‘carbon budget’ for CRD municipalities

Budget shows how much carbon left for each municipality to use to meet climate goals

Boutique ice cream business crafts ‘philanthropint’ to give back

49 Below Ice Cream concocts enough flavour to make 64 meals for Our Place

The Goldstream News Gazette office is on the move

We’re returning to our roots, just a few blocks away on Goldstream Avenue

City of Victoria drafts revision of plastic bag ban bylaw

The bylaw will need to go to the province for approval

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Earthquake on top of highway closure a wake up call for Island’s West Coast

“When someone says, ‘Be prepared for 72 hours,’ that means exactly that: be prepared.”

Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

Woman is due to give birth in Wuhan, China unless she can get out

Taxi association asks B.C. Supreme Court to stop Uber, Lyft from operating

Petition alleges Passenger Transportation Board did not take taxis into account

Majority of Canadian boards had no female members in 2016 and 2017: StatCan

Statistics Canada says 18.1 per cent of director seats were held by women in 2017

Swapping grape varieties can help winemakers adapt to climate change: UBC study

Report says 56% of wine-grape-growing regions would be lost if global climate warms by 2 C

Alberta premier wants feds to approve Teck mine for benefit of First Nations

Kenney: ‘Surely [reconciliation] means saying yes to economic development for First Nations people’

Most Read