CUPE education workers prepare for job action

Local 4165 has issued a strike mandate, but hope bargaining can make headway before September

Local education workers are gearing up for job action in September as CUPE workers remain without a collective agreement.

CUPE Local 4165 for Southeast Kootenay School District 5 took a strike vote in April, and had one day of job action on June 13, explained president Sue Krause.

“We chose not to allow any of our employers to work any overtime that day. We did that so we wouldn’t disrupt anything,” said Krause.

“It didn’t affect the students, but it did solidify our strike vote so that come September if the ministry does not wish to sit down and come to the bargaining table, we will probably have to look at further action down the road.”

There are more than 400 workers in the Local 4165, employees of School District 5 such as education assistants, clerical staff, trades, aboriginal workers, youth and family workers, custodians and bus drivers.

They are joining the 27,000 CUPE education workers in 53 school districts across B.C. to set a strike mandate.

“The most important thing is for the general public to know that we do not wish to take any job action. We care about the kids more than anything. But sadly, we’re put in a position where everything else keeps going up and we can’t continue,” said Krause.

Education workers have not had a pay increase since 2009, she explained, and earnings and benefits are too low.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand that education workers, the ones who work closest with the children, the majority of them only earn between $25,000 and $30,000 a year – at the max, and that’s actually youth workers.”

Krause said the school district understands CUPE’s position.

“There’s really nothing our district can do. They understand. Our board of trustees also wrote a letter to the minister asking for help, because they understand how important our positions here are,” she said.