School support staff struggle during teacher strike

Today (Thursday) could very well be the last day of school for students in Chilliwack. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Today (Thursday) could very well be the last day of school for students in Chilliwack.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Chilliwack teachers aren't the only ones suffering lost wages during the current teacher strike.

School support staff are as well.

Chilliwack CUPE 411 president Rod Isaac is concerned his members are being left out of the equation, even though, they too are missing work and wages as a result of not crossing picket lines.

After hearing news reports of food banks being set up for teachers and rumors of corporations, like Telus, giving B.C. teachers a credit on their phone bill, and Bridal Falls Waterpark offering free admission to teachers through the strike, Isaac felt it was time the public realized his membership is suffering as well.

"We are certainly in favour of helping out those that need help at this time, however, we feel it is very important for the public to realize that CUPE school support staff across the province is being very severely impacted by this job action as well," said Isaac.

"Yes, we have a tentative agreement with BCPSEA, and part of that agreement is that the wages that we lose will be recouped, but what most people don't seem to realize is that we are not receiving any pay at this time either."

Lost wages for CUPE members will be recouped when the tentative agreement is fully accepted.

"This will not be until sometime in the fall," said Isaac.

Several local 411 members are 10-month employees.

"We have many, many, many members that make far less than even the lowest paid teacher in the BCTF," said Isaac. "This situation has created a major hardship for them as well.

"To be perfectly clear, we are not asking for handouts, nor are we trying to take away from the concern for the teachers, we simply feel that it is important for the public to be clear about the situation as it impacts the rest of us."

More than 27,000 educational support workers are represented by the Canadian Union for Public Employers, including educational assistants, bus drivers, secretaries, IT staff, First Nations support workers, trades and maintenance workers.

The B.C. government reached a tentative deal with the union representing school support staff on June 8 after five days of negotiations. The tentative deal is a five-year term, effective from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2019.

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