How long could the Saanich school strike last?

WatchIt's day three of the Saanich school strike and the two sides still aren't back at the bargaining table. So how long could it last? Tess van Straaten takes a look.

Another day and still no resolution in the Saanich School District strike.

“Both parties should get back to the table and figure this out so parents aren’t inconvenienced any more,” says education minister Rob Fleming.

Five hundred support workers, including educational assistants and clerical and custodial staff, walked off the job Monday.

They’re vowing to stay out until they get wage parity with the Victoria and Sooke school districts.

The big question now — how long could it last?

“That’s the fear everyone has and it could take a day or it could take a lot longer, especially when the positions are so hardened and it seems like no one can or wants to move,” says Royal Roads University associate professor Eva Malisiusi.

Educational assistants make around $3.60 less an hour than their counterparts in Victoria and Sooke, which is causing serious recruitment and retention issues.

But under the province’s bargaining mandate, wage increases are limited to two per cent a year.

Even with some creative accounting, District 63 says it can only offer EAs just over 11 per cent over three years.

The province could intervene by ordering those on strike back to work or by removing its bargaining cap so Saanich could bring workers up to parity with neighbouring districts.

But experts say that would set a dangerous precedent.

“This makes it less likely the ministry would step in and offer something here that would be different and have to be accommodated across the province,” says Malisiusi.

That’s because wording of other collective agreements means any increase over the cap in Saanich could have a domino effect across the province.

B.C.’s education minister isn’t planning to intervene but claims the two sides aren’t that far apart.

“What I’ve heard from both parties very clearly in the last 24 hours and in the last three days, is they’re confident they can find an agreement within the sustainable services mandate,” Fleming says.

For parents and students in the district, the sooner the better.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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