The provincial government’s new contract with school support staff includes a 3.5 per cent increase in wages, but it’s up to local school districts to come up with the money to pay for it.
The provincial template agreement is a two-year deal covering clerical, custodial and education assistants with a one per cent increase retroactive to July 1, 2013. An additional two per cent increase takes effect on Feb. 1, 2014, with a final increase of 0.5 per cent to come May 1, 2014.
Delta School District spokesperson Deneka Michaud said since the provincial government is not funding the increase, the local school board will have to change its budget allocations for this year.
“We’ll do so carefully to minimize impact to the classroom,” Michaud said.
The net impact for the 2013/14 school year on local schools is $500,000. The total cost of the 3.5 per cent wage increase over the course of the contract is roughly $875,000.
However, Education Minister Peter Fassbender says boards protesting the cost of a 3.5 per cent raise for school support should have known it was coming, but some opted to wait and hope for an NDP government to take over. Fassbender said in an interview that school trustees have been working with the education ministry for months on “savings plans.”
They knew the B.C. Liberal government would not increase budgets to cover a raise for workers who haven’t seen one in four years, and have been without a contract for more than a year.
“I think there was some hope on the part of some [trustees] that we would, with our backs to the wall perhaps, come up with additional dollars,” Fassbender said. “And the other reality, quite honestly, was that up until May 14 there was some anticipation that there was going to be a change of government.”
Union locals and boards of education must all vote to ratify the agreement by December for it to take effect.
Other districts calculate costs from the deal to be more than $2 million in Vancouver, $700,000 in Chilliwack and proportional amounts in other districts, most of which have already cut services due to declining enrolment.
Fassbender said the support staff settlement meets the government’s “cooperative gains” mandate imposed on all public service unions, because CUPE chose to accept a smaller raise and protect its ability to bank sick days.
-With files from Tom Fletcher