Central Okanagan  

Strike debate heats up

After our initial story on a local CUPE support staff worker, who felt forced into supporting the teachers strike, more have come forward to voice their opinions.

Those who did not support the teachers say they have to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions from their union while other CUPE members say that it is not the case and no one is forcing them to stand on the picket line.

“Yes, I am a support staff and I totally support the teachers,” said CUPE member Faye Henderson.

“My coworkers and I are behind the teacher's 100 per cent. Why? Because they are right! They have been given the shaft for too long. Just like us,” said another CUPE member Jim Van Der Lee.

Certified Education Assistant 'MG' told Castanet joining the picket line is a choice.

“I never heard or read anything or felt pressure of any sort in regards to picketing if we wanted to we could sign up. Free Choice. It is my understanding that most support workers fully support the teachers,” wrote MG. “It sounds like someone has been misinformed or is trying to start drama.”

A point echoed by CEA Wendy Meek who says she never felt forced.

“I never felt I was being forced to picket,” wrote Meek. “Many CUPE members I work with made the choice for various reasons not to join a picket line today. I don't believe any of them feel there will be repercussions for their decision.”

Van Der Lee claims the original CUPE members comments regarding repercussions were false and if they were true, Van Der Lee himself would be going to the media, the labour board and CUPE National.

But others we heard from say the repercussions fears are real.

“Many of us are indeed fearful of repercussions, because we have seen the consequences experienced by the few support staff who appropriately assert (themselves). I was surprised, but also proud, that this person spoke of this issue,” wrote M.

“Unlike teachers who receive $50/day effective the first day of strike action, support staff do not receive any money until the third day of strike action, and must picket four hours per day for all three days before receiving the $15/day strike pay,” explained M.

A fellow CEA 'P' told Castanet that they believe a large portion of the union does not support the current strike action.

“We are sick to death of hearing the teachers moan and groan about how hard done by they are !!” said P. “In my estimation, about 80 per cent of us CUPE members do not support the teachers at all. We're fed up with their whining and crap. Great wages, benefits, pensions. If you don't like it, shut up and leave.”

'Another CUPE Support Staff Worker,' as he coined himself, wrote a long letter sharing his own frustration with the current strike action.

“I do agree with the anonymous CUPE worker quoted in your news article, and so do all of my co-workers. We are very upset that we have no say in this action. This is not our strike. We settled our agreement this year, and we settled for something reasonable, recognizing the state of the economy and how fortunate we are to even have a job,” wrote S.

He says he noticed in the comment section of the original Castanet article that some teachers wrote the workers should just cross the picket line if they don't like the strike, but he says that is not an option.

“People talked about that at work and considered it, but we were then told by our Union President in no uncertain terms that this is not an option, so don't even think about it if you know what's good for you.”

S goes so far as to claim union members were told to photograph any fellow members crossing the picket line.

“Yes, I am extremely thankful for my job, my salary and my benefits, and yes, I recognize that the union plays a part in that.  But supporting the teachers and their demands in this economy is ridiculous, given what the rest of us have to accept.  At times like this, union thugs are more of a hindrance than a help,” S adds.

While another support staffer 'B” feels like both sides of the argument 'look like idiots.'

“We understand the class sizes and how it affects teaching and learning (and how they are) are becoming a massive problem, but when they demand such a huge raise as compared to other groups, its ridiculous, no sympathy.......and to hold the kids, parents, and all of us tax payers hostage, sorry, its unacceptable.”

Castanet also heard from teachers who on one side mentioned they are getting full support from CUPE members while on the other noting they were disappointed with the lack of support because they had supported them on the picket line in 2001.

“Sadly the CUPE support staff are not aware or don't care that the BCTF honours their picket lines when they are on strike, which is also quite often,” said 'WEMF'. “So the next time that CUPE goes on strike will that CUPE worker expect the teachers to honour their picket line?”

“This is totally a one-off complaint. CUPE and the teachers fully support each other. If you're actually a member, you're naive not to support them. They supported you for two weeks of no pay in 2001. Or did you just forget?,” wrote another.

To which another CUPE member fought back. “The last time the teachers supported us was 2001, 13 years ago. If they had to back us up as many times as we've had to back you up over the last 13 years, you'd be pretty sick and tired of it as well. BCTF needs to get it together and start living in the real world!”

However teacher 'KGT' said they had a ton of CUPE support on their picket line.

“All were smiling, bringing food, and happily walking with us. We had a few who didn't want to bother with a long drive for poor strike pay and I respect that, but if you really feel as strongly as you say, you can always cross the line.”

The debate on all sides will continue to unfold and develop as the BCTF announced Wednesday evening that the rotating strike action will continue next week


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