Custodians will drop their mops for half an hour Thursday, the first job action undertaken by the local Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
The province-wide strike notice was served Monday to its support workers, including the 230 professionals that work in School District 20.
CUPE represents school bus drivers, custodians, clericals, maintenance, tech and trades, education assistants, childcare and child and youth care workers and aboriginal education employees.
“The plan is we’re not going to disrupt classes, we’re not going to disrupt anything,” explained Cherryl MacLeod, CUPE Local 1285 board president. “We picked that time so that we would be able to have our study session and not interrupt anybody’s education.”
Members will join custodians Thursday when they take a half an hour off from 4-4:30 p.m. to take part in a study session inside J. L. Crowe Secondary School and Rossland Secondary School.
The meeting will bring them up to speed on what’s occurred at the provincial and local bargaining table. But will also crystallize last month’s strike voteval, which needs to be acted on within 90 days, to ensure the window is open to further job action this fall.
The local is looking to send a message, following contract negotiations that didn’t result in what the union calls “job security” or a pay increase—a raise that hasn’t occurred since 2009.
BC Public School Employers’ Association, the bargaining arm for boards of education, met with union representatives from the 57 unions banded together over the winter and into the spring.
“(Members) are wondering why we’re not walking out a whole lot faster than we are but without a sitting government, we’re in limbo at this moment because if we go on strike tomorrow there is nobody in Victoria that can deal with us,” said MacLeod.
“My members are frustrated because we look around and we see other public sector groups getting to bargain and getting collective agreements, and we get told that there is no money unless we mine our own collective agreement.”
The Liberal government’s cooperative gains mandate says wage increases in the public sector are permissible this year only if the parties identify savings elsewhere. This is different from the 2010 net-zero mandate, which also required savings to offset wage but only if found in the collective agreement.
“Our hope is that they’ll decide to bargain with us over the summer and then we won’t have to continue down this road,” she added.