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Striking Saanich school support workers, employer back at the bargaining table

Saanich support workers on the picket line. .
Saanich support workers on the picket line. . CUPE 441

Five days into a contentious strike that’s seen 18 Saanich schools shuttered, unionized support staff and their employer have returned to the bargaining table.

CUPE local 441, which represents 500 school support workers, confirmed Friday that negotiations had resumed.

READ MORE: 18 Saanich schools to be closed Monday as support workers take strike action

CUPE 441 represents education assistants, technical support staff, library technicians, family counsellors, custodial and maintenance staff and others.

Striking workers say they’re paid less than their counterparts in neighbouring school districts, a differential that ranges from 30 cents to $4 per hour.

Saanich schools closed for second straight day
Saanich schools closed for second straight day

The differential exists because the union opted for better benefits decades ago, according to the district.

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But the union says that difference is causing problems in recruiting and retaining staff.

READ MORE: ‘It’s frustrating’: Saanich school strike enters third day

The Saanich School District has maintained that it has offered everything it can amid the province’s public sector wage cap of two per cent increase per year.

The teachers’ union has been respecting the CUPE picket line, leaving the parents of the districts’ 7,300 students scrambling to sort out childcare.