SD63 schools have been closed since Monday as CUPE 441 has taken strike action with the support of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association. (Black Press Media file photo)

SD63 international students attend optional programming during strike

Programs funded by Saanich School District international students’ fees

Thousands of students are still out of school as of Friday morning due to the SD63 support workers’ strike but international students in the district are being offered optional programming while job action takes place.

Robyn Reid, the Saanich School District’s director of human resources, confirmed approximately 300 international students have the option to attend field trip programs with “limited educational components.”

Reid said the programs are paid for with funding received from the international students and there are no bargaining unit members, other support staff or teachers involved.

“There’s absolutely no public funding being utilized for these programs,” Reid added.

Students are being transported to their field trips with buses from Wilson’s Transportation, based out of Greater Victoria.

READ ALSO: Stalemate continues into a fourth day during Saanich School District strike

Since the field trips do not align with the Saanich School District’s regular international education programming, Reid said the bus drivers are arguably not performing the regular duties of bargaining unit members.

The programming is not being offered to non-international students because it would require public funding in order to do so, Reid noted.

“We would be required at that point to provide services that would otherwise be performed by bargaining unit members and we wouldn’t be permitted to do so given that we’re in the middle of job action,” Reid explained.

Saanich Parks and Recreation is preparing for a second week of day camps in response to the strike, offering camps from Nov. 4 to 8 from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. for $40 per day. Registration for the camps opened on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association expressed support for CUPE 441 members that were on strike and picketing in order to secure wage parity with other south Island school districts. The members are paid lower wages than their counterparts in bordering school districts due to a decision made by CUPE Local 441 decades ago to choose increased benefits over a higher salary.

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

CUPE Local 441 represents nearly 500 workers and includes education assistants, support staff, library techs, youth and family counsellors and clerical, custodial, grounds, maintenance, transportation and trades staff.

On Oct. 23, the local served a 72-hour strike notice to SD63 after two unsuccessful mediation sessions.

The union and North Saanich-Islands MLA Adam Olsen have called on the province to step in and help with a resolution but the government is insisting that SD63 and CUPE Local 441 must negotiate within terms set out by the public framework agreement, a B.C. mandate for compensation and other key sector matters inside which local bargaining occurs.

With files from Nina Grossman

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


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