Board tables offer to end Saanich school strike; union confident deal can be reached by Monday
VICTORIA -- There may be an end in sight to the Saanich school strike that has kept more than 7,000 students from attending classes this week.
The Saanich Board of Education announced Friday that the Saanich School District and the union representing support staff are back at the bargaining table Friday.
CUPE local 441 workers have been picketing outside Saanich schools, saying they are paid far less than those doing equivalent jobs in nearby school districts, such as Victoria and Sooke.
“We are very pleased that we have found agreement with CUPE to recommence bargaining, within the provincial mandate which determines our contract parameters,” said school board vice-chair Elsie McMurphy in a statement Friday.
“We remain hopeful that we will be able to conclude an agreement on our common concerns of wage parity, recruitment and retention."
CUPE 441 president Dean Coates confirmed to CTV News that the union is sitting down with the board Friday to negotiate a deal. He said he is optimistic a settlement can be reached to allow classes to resume by Monday.
While the announcement is a positive sign of progress, McMurphy cautioned that a conclusion has not yet been reached.
“We are very aware of the impact of this job action on families, students and staff, and we wanted everyone to know that we are still working diligently to get our schools open as quickly as possible.”
She said the board has tabled an offer of the maximum available funding to reduce the wage gap with other districts, especially targeting those support positions which have fallen the furthest behind.
"Nevertheless, these proposals will still provide wage increases for all support staff in excess of the six per cent over the three-year term of the agreement, in line with other settlements in school districts and across the other employee groups provincially," the board said.
Picket lines remain active across the district Friday and classes remain cancelled. Parents are urged to check the school district website for the latest updates.