The first strike vote was pretty marginal, as a lot of people just wanted to keep working, but as the support staff learned more about what was being offered, the second vote gave an even stronger mandate to reject the offer, and subsequent offers have been borderline insulting. The Edmonton Journal published most of my letter to the editor regarding this, but left off the juicy bit at the end; I'm assuming it was for space, but one never knows, I suppose. Compare the closing of "It is ironic hearing the school board cry there are no funds for wage increases after the election of a premier committed to education" to the original below.
My wife has been a special needs teaching assistant with Edmonton Catholic for nearly five years now, and was initially reluctant about going on strike. The longer the strike progresses though, the more resolute she becomes. Having worked without a wage increase this year, the union's proposal of a modest 1.5% increase was met with a counter offer of a lump sum of about $200. True, this would be fairly close to the same amount, assuming the worker in question makes less than $14,000 a year. Professional librarians, dedicated administrative staff and SNTAs that deal with frankly harrowing experiences on a daily basis commonly earn (and deserve!) more than this, however, so it is small wonder this overture was so soundly rejected.
Hearing their employers cry that there are no funds for wage increases after the election of a premier committed to education, as well as having to part the picket lines in order to permit the delivery of new exercise equipment to the Edmonton Catholic School Division offices might be ironic, if it weren't so tragic.
Hey, I just noticed they took out the exclamation in "and deserve!" How disaffecting. I pity the school division official who had to present that equivalency with a straight face; I keep thinking the appropriate response would be a clip of Magneto in the first X-Men movie dryly remarking, "I thought you people lived in a school."
Hopefully the strike doesn't drag on too long, but the effect on students and parents has been pretty small in scale, and unlikely to provoke the public outcry needed to goad the school division back to the table with a new offer. Besides, most Edmontonians have their labour action bandwidth occupied by the NHL lockout, which could turn out to be even more ironic if the Oilers should end up moving to Seattle or something.
Regardless, I wrote the letter to create a little more awareness of details like "$200=1.5%" since they don't seem to make it into the reported stories. If others could help spread the word, I would be immensely grateful, and so would a great number of parents,students, and teachers.