School support staff reach tentative deal

“But every local still has to bargain with their district and we have issues to work out.” - Roger Smith, Local 1285 CUPE president.

Education support staff could have a five-year reprieve from bargaining for wage increases after a tentative contract was reached with the province late last week.

Seventeen Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) presidents from across the province met with the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) the bargaining arm for the board of education, hoping to negotiate a new contract for the 34,000 union members.

Although details of the agreement won’t be released until after all CUPE presidents reconvene next Monday in Vancouver, the local union leader is feeling hopeful and looking forward to some stability for the 230 members in School District 20 once the deal is ratified this fall.

“What I can say is that it is in line with what all the other public sectors have ratified,” said Roger Smith, Local 1285 CUPE president. “I am hoping everyone thinks this is a good deal and it gets ratified throughout the province,” he explained. “I’ve been involved for four years and it seems that for at least 3.5 years of that time, it’s all been bargaining.”

The new deal runs through until June 19, but first of all CUPE members must vote on the five-year framework agreement, and Smith said some of the terms have yet to be ironed out.

He was referring to the province’s new Economic Stability Mandate that applies to all public sector employers with unionized employees with collective agreements that expired on or after Dec. 31 last year.

The mandate includes two components, a modest wage increase to be negotiated within the government’s budget without creating a deficit or by raising taxes; and growth sharing increases equal to half of any percentage point gain in real GDP growth above predicted GDP gains.

“We touched on some of it in a conference call last night,” he noted. “Because a lot of questions have been raised about how this works and is based on GDP predictions,” he continued. “It sort of threw me because do we get half of what is predicted or half of what the growth goes above?”

Support staff bargaining began one week ago and over five days, both sides were able to successfully negotiate a five-year deal that secures wages, however outstanding issues such as staffing and job security must be worked out between the local union and school district.

“What we agreed upon is a provincial issue,” said Smith. “But every local still has to bargain with their district and we have issues to work out.”

CUPE represents education support workers in 59 locals and 53 school districts throughout the province, including: school bus drivers, custodians, clericals, maintenance, tech and trades, education assistants, child and youth care workers and aboriginal education employees.

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