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In holding pattern for Teamsters' job action in Abbotsford
Strike action by Teamsters Local 31 could begin as early as this afternoon, although school district superintendent Kevin Godden said the local hasn't provided any details about "the nature, location or specific time."
The Teamsters served 72-hour strike notice to the district on Friday afternoon.
"We do not anticipate that any action will be taken in the immediate future, but as soon as we know more, we will send formal notices home to parents so that alternative arrangements can be made if needed," Godden said in a statement posted Monday morning on the school district's website.
The Teamsters consist of school support staff such as clerical workers, educational assistants, bus drivers, custodians and maintenance workers.
Local 31 is the only one in the province that has not yet reached a settlement. Negotiations between the two sides reached an impasse on April 10, when the Teamsters rejected the school district's last proposal and requested the withdrawal of the mediator appointed by the Labour Relations Board.
The BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), representing all school districts at the bargaining table, had negotiated a two-year provincial framework agreement with representatives of all other school district support staff unions in September 2013 which has since been ratified by other union locals around the province.
The agreement provides for salary increases of 3.5 per cent for support staff over the two-year term.
However, representatives of Local 31 say they are the lowest paid support staff in the province, earning $5 less an hour, for some jobs, than their counterparts in other districts.
For example, a teaching assistant in Abbotsford currently makes $19.54 or $19.94 an hour, according to wage charts listed on the BCPSEA website.
An educational assistant in Langley, which is similar in size to the Abbotsford school district, makes as much as $24.89.
A bus driver in Abbotsford makes $19.95, compared to $21.33 in Langley.
Local 31 is seeking a wage increase of four per cent over two years, as well as a four per cent increase in their health and welfare premiums in the same period.
The Abbotsford school district is proposing a seven-year term with total wage hikes of nine per cent (3.5 per cent in the first two years and 5.5 per cent for the remaining five).
The Teamsters say the last offer by the district also included benefit provisions that would see support staff "suffer further financial loss than was bargained earlier in the process."