WATCH: Hours after the BCTF called for binding arbitration to settle the teachers’ dispute, hundreds of teachers rallied at Canada Place in Vancouver. Meantime, as Jill Bennett reports, CUPE support staff are caught in the middle as the strike drags on.
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UPDATE: As the first week of the strike that has kept B.C. kids out of school wraps up, hundreds of teachers bussed in from all over the Lower Mainland and joined their supporters at Canada Place this afternoon to take part in a rally to try to pressure the government. This rally comes after another round of offers, counteroffers and political maneuvering from both sides.
The event is being supported by the BCGEU and Nurses’ Union as well as members of CUPE, the support staff that reached a settlement back in June. Some of those CUPE workers were in the schools today before attending the rally. They were preparing the classrooms with the hope that school will be back in session soon.
WATCH: Thousands of teachers rallied in downtown Vancouver, hoping the government will agree to the BCTF’s binding arbitration proposal. Jeremy Hunka reports.
As schools around the province remain closed with no formal talks between teachers and government scheduled for today, education support workers caught in the middle of the strike are feeling the pinch.
While teachers are behind the picket lines, thousands of education assistants, caretakers, bus drivers and other support staff are effectively out of their jobs.
Andrew Mitchell is a caretaker at Summit Middle School in Coquitlam.
He has been in the business for 17 years. Mitchell has been behind picket lines before, but it is the first time in his experience when the beginning of the school year has been delayed over a labour dispute.
“They are a lot of people affected by this that are not teachers,” he says.
Mitchell says he’s been hit hard financially and has lost 2.5 pay cheques since the strike started in June.
He has had to pick up random jobs during the summer and is now looking for something that would pay him minimum wage.
READ MORE: School support workers reach deal with B.C. government
Brandi Frocklage works as a bus driver in Fort St. John.
She, too, can’t go back to work because of the picket lines in her school district.
“We can’t vote on anything. We just have to sit back and hope for the best,” she says.
Frocklage say she did not expect the labour dispute to be settled by September because of the minimal negotiations that took place over the summer.
“We kind of got our hopes up when [Vince] Ready got in there, but nobody was really holding their breath.”
Frocklage believes she is lucky to have a secondary job at a golf course, which is where some of the teachers are also picking up some hours to make ends meet, “and they are quite stressed out too,” she adds.
Carrie Dexter is a single mom and an education assistant in Prince George.
Despite having considerable experience in the industry, she is now looking for a waiting job.
Her son is four-years-old and is not eligible for the $40 daycare subsidy the government has promised to pay back to the parents when the strike ends.
Dexter says she does not receive child support, and lost $2000 in wages in June, when the strike started.
“I have been job hunting every day…. I do not want to have to go pump gas, because I have an education to work with children with autism.”
While Dexter is lending her support to the teachers, she feels caught up in the strike, with no say and no beneficial outcome for her.
Dexter says some teachers she has spoken with in her home town are now looking to move to Alberta before they lose their houses.
Others are looking for secondary jobs.
WATCH: Teachers struggling to make ends meet, look for second jobs