Teachers and support staff at St. Margaret’s School have voted 88 per cent in favour of job action and have issued a 72-hour strike notice, ahead of scheduled mediation later this month.
The union, the Professional Employees Association, has started to plan job action which may include a full withdrawal of services which could impact end-of-year activities.
Mediation between the parties is set for May 24 and 29, which both parties agreed to, and the union says essential service negotiations will begin in the meantime.
“If mediation is unsuccessful, the union will be taking job action and has begun planning for a potential strike should the school not bring a meaningful offer to the table on May 24,” the union said to CHEK News in a statement.
According to the union, the 47 teachers and 65 support staff are paid less than teachers in B.C. public schools and comparable independent schools.
“This strike vote result shows that our members are willing to take action to back up their bargaining demands,” said Rhiannon Bray, labour relations officer with the PEA who has been leading talks with the school.
The union and the school have been in negotiations since Feb. 11, but reached an impasse on April 14, when the union says wages, work intensification and extended health benefits were not meaningfully addressed.
In a statement to CHEK News, St. Margaret’s School says there had been 14 bargaining sessions where “significant progress” was made in addressing dozens of issues, before the union declared an impasse.
“Our goal is to continue to provide an excellent educational experience for our students and we acknowledge our partnership with our teachers and staff is integral to our success,” said Sharon Klein, head of the school.
“We will continue to comply with the terms established by the Labour Relations Board and look forward to meeting with a mediator on May 24 as we seek an appropriate resolution to these negotiations.”
St. Margaret’s School says the most recent offer was tabled on April 14 which included “significant pay increases for teachers and support staff, including a signing bonus.”
PEA members at St. Margaret’s School include faculty teaching Kindergarten through Grade 12, early childhood educators, support staff who manage the school grounds, office and administration, kitchen and laundry facilities, and boarding parents.
According to the B.C. Labour Relations Board, a strike can start any time after the 72-hour notice has been filed, and there is no requirement for a strike to start at the end of the 72-hour period.