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Okanagan school workers avert strike with 11th-hour deal Add to ...

Public school students are in class across the Okanagan Tuesday after last-minute bargaining sidestepped job action by school support staff.

CUPE local 523 spokesman Rob Hewitt says it was a long and hard day but the union and the three districts – North Okanagan-Shuswap, Okanagan-Skaha and Okanagan-Similkameen – were able to reach a compromise.

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It means targeted job action set for Tuesday and a possible full-scale walkout planned for Wednesday have been cancelled.

Details of the agreement won’t be released until the 1,100 union members have had a chance to vote on it.

The union is recommending acceptance.

Members of CUPE Local 523 were in a legal strike position heading into a major bargaining session Monday.

“If we are unsuccessful, then we are looking at pulling select groups out on Tuesday,” said CUPE spokesman Rob Hewitt.

“We’ll look to escalate up to and including a full withdrawal on Wednesday,” he warned, if progress was not made by mid-week.

Hewitt said his members are angry about what the union believes is an attempt to claw back long-term disability savings.

“The employer under this Liberal government mandate is allowed to use [savings] they can find within the collective agreement … in order to enhance other areas of the collective agreement,” said Hewitt.

“We have identified some savings and they agree, they’re there, and our last position was we want to get a deal, we’ll give you two-thirds of the savings, give us a third.”

The three school districts negotiate as a single group. A spokesman has denied union allegations of any clawback.

Although the dispute covers most of the Okanagan, the Vernon and Kelowna school districts were not affected.

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