Pay disparity at heart of Saanich schools strike has 45-year-old roots

Schools could be out beyond this week

A 45-year-old agreement lies at the root of the strike that closed Saanich schools Monday morning. Schools closed as local Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Local 441) stopped work to achieve pay parity with other local school districts.

Mike Forrester, an educational assistant (EA) at Royal Oak Middle School, and SD63 Superintendent, Dave Eberwein agree there is a historical reason behind the pay disparity. Some 45 years ago, each school district negotiated its own agreements and CUPE didn’t want their members to lose jobs. So, they secured a benefits package and a wage increase they were satisfied with, and went back to work. The rest of the province went on strike, and were able to secure larger increases. Forrester said every contract that has expired and been renegotiated since then has only widened the wage gap between Saanich and other districts.

READ ALSO: Classes cancelled across Saanich School District

All schools and employees are not crossing the picket line and are prepared to support the strike past the end of the week.

Forrester said none of the teachers or support staff were happy to be picketing instead of teaching. “In the past, they were more concerned about the gender wage gap, and I see it as the same thing,” he said. “Most people trying to be an EA here are leaving – as well as secretaries – because people in the two [other] local school districts beside us are making way, way more than we are.”

Forrester said because the district has trouble retaining EAs, it puts a burden on ones who stay. He said they are effectively doing more work for less money.

SD63 superintendent Dave Eberwein said he sympathizes with the employees in the district and they have done as much as they can under the provincial government public sector bargaining mandate. He said all school support staff and employers are required to bargain under this agreement. “I believe it’s the richest offer to support staff under the framework,” he said. “We really have tried our best.”

Forrester said he is aware the school district is tied to the provincial mandate, but that staff in Saanich schools have lived with lower wages for more than 40 years. He said it has been a very long time since CUPE has taken a stand like this and acknowledged it would cause hardship for CUPE Local 441 members. “But we have to do it now. We have to say ‘let’s get on the same playing field as everyone else’ and then we’d be back at work and kids wouldn’t be short EAs for the classroom, which is the biggest problem,” he said.

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Full buses leave Colwood woman fuming over commute from West Shore

BC Transit plans to add eight double-deckers in 2020, will rotate on 50 and 61 routes

Canada names 24 athletes to compete for 2020 Pan Am Cross Country Cup

The event takes place at Langford’s Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa on Feb. 29

Langford Fire Department seeks fresh batch of volunteer firefighters for 2020

Open house takes place at Langford Station 1 on Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to noon

Search for space continues as North Saanich child care program closes

Beacon Community Service says it is a challenge to find suitable facilities

Saanich councillor tries his hand at design with cycling T-shirt

Positive response has avid cyclist considering making more to share

Fashion Fridays: Ethical and sustainable gifts for the season

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

Six B.C. municipalities accepted as interveners in Supreme Court of Canada carbon-pricing case

Victoria, Vancouver, Squamish, Richmond, Nelson and Rossland have intervener status

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

POLL: Will you be donating to charities over the holiday season?

Many here in Victoria joined others around the world to take part… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 3

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Many of Canada’s working poor can’t afford lawyers, don’t qualify for legal aid

One lawyer says many people earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to really live on

Economy lost 71,200 jobs in November, unemployment rate climbs to 5.9%

Jobless rate is at its highest since August 2018, when it hit 6%

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Most Read