CUPE staff crossing picket line at school board office

Why are teachers picketing during the summer when school is out, asks district employee

Gail Chaddock-Costello

CUPE support staff working at the Langley School Board office have been forced to cross the picket line to pay their bills, including mortgages.

Teachers have been picketing the Langley school board office daily in July, and it has at least one CUPE staff member asking why they would put fellow union members in financial hardship when school isn’t even in session.

There are approximately 30 CUPE support staff who hold year-round positions at the school board office, as well as the senior management staff.

The Langley Teachers Association and the executive of the Langley CUPE unions have urged support staff to honour the picket line.

“Why expect us to give up two months’ wages during the summer when no teachers are working?” said Sharon Welsh, supervisor of office services at the board office.

“I for one cannot afford to lose any more money. I have a mortgage to pay. Many of my colleagues have young families to support.

“I will be doing something I’ve never done during the 25 years I have worked for the school district — I will be crossing the line,” Welsh wrote in a letter.

Welsh has already crossed the line, as have many of her colleagues.

“We have a lot of young guys with babies at home in the IT department as well as single people who had to cross the line to pay the bills,” she said.

Prior to that, all the board office staff lost 12 days pay when the teachers were on strike or locked out before the school year ended.

“Strike pay is $75 a day for us if we go on the picket line and we have been told we should get a refund for days lost when we ratify our contract, but that isn’t likely until fall.

“How do we survive until then?”

Langley teachers have chosen to continue to picket through the summer, daily outside the school board office and rotating at schools across the district.

LTA president Gail Chaddock-Costello said the union decided to picket at the board office every day because they want to send a message to both senior administration and trustees that teachers are still without a contract.

“We are hoping they can add their voices, speaking to the government to say we all want a speedy resolution,” she said.

Chaddock-Costello has heard the complaints of financial hardship the picketing is causing CUPE union members.

“It is never our intent to hurt them financially,” she said.

“It is my understanding they will be paid for all the days off work when they ratify the contract. So they will be better off financially tomorrow, but I  do understand the hardship right now.”

There is no end in sight to the battle between the BCTF and the government. Chaddock-Costello said the union is ready to go to a mediator, but the government continues to have demands too unreasonable to mediate.

So far, no mediator has agreed to take on the job.

In the meantime, the LTA is organizing a public forum on Wednesday, July 16 at the Langley Golf and Banquet Centre where a panel will answer questions about the ongoing dispute.

“There is a lot of confusion out there,” Chaddock-Costello said.

While speakers from the BC Federation of Labour, BCTF and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives are confirmed, they are hoping Langley’s MLAs and trustees will be there too.

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