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Saanich students hold strike rally at B.C. education minister's office
VICTORIA -- Multiple rallies concerning an ongoing strike between the Saanich School District (SD63) and CUPE local 441 took place on Wednesday morning, including one organized entirely by students.
Dozens of students from the school district rallied around Minister of Education Rob Fleming's constituency office at 1020 Hillside Ave. to call on the province to get involved with the strike.
Roughly 7,000 students have now been out of school for more than half a month as negotiations enter their third week.
On Tuesday, the provincial government offered a statement explaining that it would not be getting involved with negotiations.
"Our government supports the collective bargaining process," the statement said.
"We believe that solutions are best found at the bargaining table… To date, 53 of the 69 K-12 bargaining locals across the province have ratified agreements. We believe School District 63 and CUPE 441 can too, and we encourage them to continue discussions at the bargaining table."
Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, roughly 200 people gathered outside of the Saanich School Board building.
Union workers, parents and students were all in attendance, carrying signs. Many cars honked their horns as they drove by the rally.
The driving issue of the strike remains a wage disparity between Saanich School District support workers, such as educational assistants, and support workers in other districts.
While SD63 has claimed that its latest offer represents all of the funding that is available, CUPE 441 maintains that the offer is not enough. Both sides now appear to have dug in their heels, with negotiations in a stalemate.
On Tuesday, school district superintendent Dave Eberwein stressed that "no child will be left behind by the strike in terms of grade progression or graduation."
At Wednesday's rallies, parents and students said they think the province needs to intervene and bring an end to the strike.
But that doesn’t appear likely, anytime soon. On Wednesday afternoon, Premier Horgan reiterated that he thinks the union and District can reach a deal on their own, without the government stepping in.
"We believe that the Saanich School District has worked very creatively within that mandate and we're hopeful that the parties will come to a conclusion shortly," said Horgan.
It’s a hope shared by thousands of kids and their families.