School janitors, receptionists, maintenance workers, technical support workers, childcare workers, therapists and special education teaching assistants are discussing walking off the job in September.
The move comes after the provincial government failed to negotiate with the K-12 workers covered by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) last week.
“They called us back to the table. We were ready, they were not,” said Colin Pawson, chair of the CUPE BC K-12 presidents’ council. “As a result, there is danger that classes will be disrupted this fall.”
Local CUPE 801 representative Carolyn Smith said the Coast has close to 200 members who would be involved in the job action next month.
“We don’t have any definite dates yet. We’re preparing for it to happen sometime in September, but not on the first day of school or anything. That’s not our wish to do that,” she said, adding there are 57 locals across the province poised to strike alongside them.
The workers are looking for higher wages and job security in a new contract with the government.
“Our members have been without a wage adjustment for over four years. We have been without a contract for over a year,” Smith said. “The annual salary for the average K-12 worker is $24,000 and we’re simply asking for what has been given to other post-secondary education sectors, a two per cent increase for the next two years.”
That request couldn’t be discussed at the bargaining table last week, however, since the government’s appointed mediator was not ready to bargain, CUPE has alleged.
On Wednesday, Aug. 21, Ministry of Education spokesperson Scott Sutherland said bargaining is being handled by Peter Cameron, “the province’s lead negotiator” and that he has been in touch with the bargaining committee to discuss future meeting dates.