Bargaining returns with school year

Negotiations with unions representing more than 25,000 school support staff are back on next week, with a strike mandate already in place

Education Minister Peter Fassbender

Negotiations with unions representing more than 25,000 school support staff are back on next week, with a strike mandate already in place for B.C.’s 60 school districts as the new school year gets underway.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Wednesday he is hopeful that a settlement with clerical staff, custodians, bus drivers and other support staff can be achieved without picket lines disrupting classes. Talks broke off in August and are set to resume for three days starting Sept. 4.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing most of the workers, says they haven’t had a raise in four years. The latest contract expired in June 2012 after a two-year wage freeze was imposed across the B.C. public service.

Fassbender wouldn’t comment directly on talks, except to say that school districts are working to set up “savings accounts” in their operations to fund wage increases within existing district budgets. The government’s “cooperative gains” mandate requires all raises to be funded by internal savings such as shared administrative functions.

CUPE is seeking raises of two per cent per year.

“Our members will take full-scale job action if the government doesn’t show a commitment to bargaining,” CUPE representative Colin Pawson said in a statement on the weekend, as the union prepared to start an advertising campaign to attract public support.

Fassbender said funding for public education is at record levels despite falling enrolment. While some urban districts are growing, the education ministry forecasts that there will be 526,000 full-time students this year, down 9,000 from the last school year. The total budget remains the same, $4.7 billion, of which about 80 per cent pays wages of teachers, support staff and administrators.

Soon after being appointed minister by Premier Christy Clark, Fassbender appointed a provincial negotiator to take over province-wide issues from the bargaining agent for school districts.

Negotiator Peter Cameron told union leaders in mid-August he would not return to talks until boards have savings plans in place. Fassbender said Wednesday that “a large majority are well underway, and many are in place” so talks can resume.


Just Posted

GW Graham basketball star signs on with Trinity Western Spartans

Grizzly grad Jaya Bannerman is opting to stay close to home after graduating in June.

Auditors couldn’t tell if Fraser Health executives bought booze on taxpayers’ dime

Review from 2014 says one administrator bought Bose headphones on company credit card

WATCH: Giant Flowers artwork going up at Evans roundabout in Chilliwack

The artwork installation Tuesday was causing very little traffic disruption for Chilliwack drivers

Nature festival, musical science and more for spring break fun

Chilliwack’s libraries, ice rinks and favourite family spots offer up plenty to do

Experts detect risk of rock avalanche above Bridal Falls near Chilliwack

Risk in the one-in-10,000-year is minimal but triggers FVRD to direct growth elsewhere

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Langley City hits up province for share of pot revenue

The province says it understands municipalities will face extra costs when marijuana is legalized.

B.C. climber remembered for gentle spirit, love of mountains

Marc-André Leclerc had been hearing the call of the mountains since childhood

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals of the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

B.C. bravery, public service honoured by Governor General Julie Payette

UVic basketball coach Kathryn Shields inducted into Order of Canada

Sea lion with rope wrapped around neck saved by Vancouver Aquarium

Steller sea lions are a species of special concern and some populations are endangered in parts of Alaska

Most Read