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

An unexpected sight south of Burns Lake

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief finds bear eating another bear’s carcass

Area restrictions rescinded in northwest B.C.

The orders will be rescinded Sept. 19 at noon

Verdun Mountain and Nadina Lake fires 100 per cent contained

Area restriction orders in effect for several fires

Vigil for Jessica Patrick

VIDEOS: Hundreds honour a young mother who lost her life. Jessica Patrick was 18.

Still unclear if Houston will benefit from new opioids crisis funding

Canada’s health minister has recently announced $71.7 million in emergency funding

AFN national chief suggests moving Trans Mountain pipeline route

Perry Bellegarde said many Indigenous communities believe in the need to diversify export markets

B.C. making progress on senior care staffing, Adrian Dix says

Minister aims to meet residential care provincial standard by 2021

B.C. realtor receives racist letter touching on ‘empty homes’

The letter has been met with condemnation of the racism after Winnie Wu posted it online

Pawsitive response by B.C. community for 60-plus surrendered cats

Community comes together to help surrendered cats at Penticton SPCA

Judge weighs Cosby’s sentence after declaring him ‘predator’

Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill made the decision as he weighed the punishment for Cosby

AFN national chief suggests moving Trans Mountain pipeline route

Perry Bellegarde said many Indigenous communities believe in the need to diversify export markets

U.S. worker charged after video shows him spitting on customer’s pizza

Jaylon Kerley of Detroit is charged with a felony count of food law violations

Andrew Weaver congratulates New Brunswick on electing first Green caucus

Election win means there are now three provincial Green Party caucuses in Canada

Around the BCHL: Merritt’s Matthew Kopperud nets Sun Devil scholarship

Around the BCHL is a look at the BCHL and goings-on throughout the junior A world.

Most Read