- School support staff prepared to walk picket lines starting Tuesday morningPosted 5 days ago
- Osoyoos stores open, close, move, change handsPosted 7 days ago
- Travel writer names Okanagan as world’s top wine destinationPosted 7 days ago
- Local leaders respond with caution to possible changes to modernize Agricultural Land CommissionPosted 7 days ago
Local teachers would not cross picket line if School District 53 support staff go on strike
If collective bargaining doesn’t go well, support staff in School District 53 will go on strike and teachers will not cross the picket line.
That’s the message from CUPE 523 president Jean Frolek as 170 support workers in the district prepare for job action.
“The fact we’ve been without a contract for almost 15 months is a little unnerving,” Frolek said last Friday.
Support workers include education assistants, custodians, receptionists, office assistants, plumbers, library technicians and gardeners.
“We’re the people you don’t really notice until we’re not there,” said Frolek, who works as an education assistant and custodian.
Frolek said it seems like the government is not taking support workers seriously because it hasn’t brought anything to the table.
“We are in the process of bargaining, but our next step is job action.”
Frolek said the union is asking for a two per cent raise – the first raise in four years.
“The sad part is the government is asking school districts to find the money somewhere. They say districts have the money because they always send in balanced budgets. But they have to or they get fired.”
Frolek said school budgets are balanced by “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
She acknowledged the fact that support workers make good money, but noted that the cost of living (gas, food, ICBC rates) are going up.
“I’m not able to buy what I could or should be able to buy.”
Frolek said job action would include a province-wide strike, with members walking the picket lines and not entering schools.
She pointed out that teachers have indicated they will honour these picket lines.
Sylvia Slater, president of the South Okanagan Similkameen Teachers’ Union, said CUPE members are valued partners in public education and teachers will support them in achieving a negotiated, collective agreement.
Bev Young, Superintendent of Schools for School District 53, agreed there is the potential for job action this fall, depending on how bargaining goes.
She noted the district is trying to establish a savings plan to fund the increases that support workers are asking for.
“If CUPE issues strike notice and teachers do not cross the picket line, schools will certainly be disrupted and not in session,” Young said.
Frolek could not be reached for an update on last weekend’s bargaining session.
Young said she understands that some progress was made, but no agreement was reached.
The employers have made a final offer with respect to the cost parameters and the union has requested further costing details.
Young said another bargaining session is set for Monday, Sept. 16.
“We have received no indication to expect any job action that might impact schools in the meantime. Additional information will be communicated to school districts this week,” Young said.
Frolek said he’s hopeful a deal can be worked out before job action takes place.
Special to the Times