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School district employees compensated for lost wages
THE COAST Mountains School District has paid its unionized non-teaching employees just over $450,000 for wages lost when teachers first took strike action in May and June.
The compensation is for those days when Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members working for the school district did not cross picket lines set up by teachers.
Coast Mountains school superintendent Katherine McIntosh said the money was paid immediately after the district and CUPE Local 2052 ratified a five-year collective agreement.
Under that agreement, the compensation falls under a provision called an employee support grant.
CUPE members will also receive similar compensation for wages lost from July onward.
“It applies for as long as the labour dispute with the teachers lasts for any support staff affected,” said education ministry official Ben Green.
In the meantime, teachers’ picket lines began reappearing more frequently in the area last week as the combination of strike and lockout action which marked the end of the school year continued.
Local teachers’ union president Cathy Lambright said how many schools or other Coast Mountains School District facilities are affected each day and for how long a picket line may be up each day depends upon how many teachers volunteer to be on picket duty.
“We’re now starting to get teachers to come in for two-hour shifts or a couple of two-hour slots at a time,” she said.
“As we see more schools open and more teachers return, you’ll start to see more activity.”
Schools normally open several weeks before classes begin so that teachers, administrators and support staff can prepare material and classrooms.
“This is the time of year you’d see teachers in their classrooms, sometimes early in the morning if it’s a nice day so they could enjoy the few days left of summer,” said Lambright.
McIntosh said activity at the schools has been picking up particularly at Skeena Middle School and Caledonia because of students inquiring about course times.
“Typically timetable changes are done the week prior to school starting but there have been many students phoning in and visiting our administrators at the schools,” she said of activity last week.
With just weeks before classes are set to resume Sept. 2, negotiators for both sides have been talking under an information blackout.
Lambright said teachers want to return to work as much as everyone else wants them to and encouraged parents and others to become more vocal.
“We want people to join in and push both sides to have a settlement,” she said.
Although some progress was made as June ended, teachers and the school districts remained apart on wage increases and length of contract.