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

TONIGHT: Team Canada’s road to the Olympic Games kicks off in South Surrey

Team Canada will play Cuba at 7:30 p.m., Softball City

Young South Surrey soccer player follows dream to England

Hugo Patel Thompson, 13, hopes to one day play for Chelsea

City Dream Centres hands out 1,000 backpacks at back to school event in Surrey

This is the fifth year the charity is hosting the event in the city

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Border crossings across Lower Mainland seeing lengthy delays

Sumas, Peace Arch and Surrey-Blaine border crossings seeing long wait times

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

Most Read