Dateline Cowichan: School district support staff on picket lines
Nearly all Cowichan Valley school district employees are represented by of one of three unions: The British Columbia Teachers’ Union; Canadian Union of Public Employees; and the United Steelworkers, whose members formerly belonged to the International Woodworkers of America.
In April 1976, IWA Local 1-80 was at loggerheads with the local school board about a wage increase, and its 90 janitors, bus drivers and ground maintenance workers were off the job resulting in the closure of 28 Cowichan district schools.
CUPE clerical and secretarial staff honoured the picket lines, which came down between 9 and 10 a.m. every school morning for students to collect homework and return assignments. Teachers, who had not yet unionized, remained on the job.
The Cowichan District Teachers’ Association supported the union’s right to strike, and at the same time the union recognized the teachers’ obligations to fulfill their contracts with the Cowichan school board, said CDTA president Phil Van Seters.
The board had offered a rate of $6.16 an hour, while the union was asking $6.60. Any wage increase was subject to a ruling by the province’s anti-inflation board.
Although Herd Road resident John Comer complained he was having what he called a tremendous problem with rats on his property, he was assured by North Cowichan council that the nearby municipal garbage incinerator was not the problem.
About 50 North Cowichan CUPE workers were asked to accept a two-year contract calling for a 70-cent an hour increase each on the 1975 base rate of $5.49. This would bring the basic hourly rate to $6.89 for 1977.
The Cowichan Valley regional board received authorization from the municipal affairs department to prepare a loan bylaw for raising funds to start construction of the $6.3 million Cowichan Valley Community Centre, approved by referendum the previous December.