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Mediation set to begin between SD8 board and support workers

Support staff in School District 8 (Kootenay Lake) will be headed into mediation this week after workers voted 98 per cent in favor of a strike vote earlier this year.

The union representing the support staff in SD8 announced the results of the strike vote in January after five days of voting.

Michelle Bennett, CUPE 748 president and a school support worker herself, wouldn’t comment on exactly what the union was asking for but did say they were going to stand united.

“We don’t want to serve strike notice and walk out on our students,” Bennett says. “The bargaining committee is responsible for over 400 kids. We have to make sure they are okay.

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“We are not taking concessions. CUPE is absolutely not allowed to bargain concessions. We’re not allowed to do it.”

Bennett says she wants to reassure students and families the strike is not about wages or compensation.

“I have never thought the wages were good enough,” she says. “This time we actually got good wages, so it has nothing to do with the wages.”

Bennett says she is hopeful for a positive outcome with mediation, but they are prepared in case talks fail.

“We can very well serve strike notice with 72-hours notice,” she says. “That is the last thing we want to do. We want the students, and the parents, to know they are going to be able to attend school.”

District superintendent, Trish Smillie, says so far both parties have done well and she is optimistic about reaching an agreement.

“The parties have made progress at the bargaining table. While we have not yet reached an agreement, we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached.”

A mediator from Vancouver has been appointed to help resolve the dispute and will meet with the sides  Feb. 9.

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