Local CUPE members support agreement

CUPE Local 1285 has voted overwhelmingly to accept the latest contract with School District 20 (SD20) in last weekend’s final vote.

CUPE Local 1285 has voted overwhelmingly to accept the latest contract with School District 20 (SD20) in last weekend’s final vote.

The contract passed by a landslide 94 per cent “Yes” vote, but that was only after a couple of topics were put on the table for negotiation.

Roger Smith, president of the Local 1285, says one point of debate was whether support staff workers with SD20 would have to transport students in their care to events and activities in their personal vehicles.

“They had been expected to drive students in their personal vehicles and it was in well over three-quarters of the job descriptions,” he said, adding that CUPE and the school board came to an agreement on the matter after a few long days around the negotiation table. “We got that rectified and the board will be creating three new classifications (for student transportation).”

Smith says that part of the agreement was for support staff to look at every other possible mode of transportation before resorting to using their own cars to drive students.

“If someone doesn’t have a problem driving the student (in their personal vehicle), they can apply for one of these three classifications,” he said, adding that this was a big point of debate for the local CUPE. “We have also come to an agreement that all other avenues will be looked at first, meaning transit, taxis and any other mode of transportation before personal vehicles come into it. That was huge. That was a line in the sand where it would have been a strike issue for us.”

Now that SD20 and the Local 1285 have ratified both their sides of the agreement, the contract moves to the provincial level, the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), for a final read through and ratification.

“The board has already ratified their portion, we have ratified ours and now it has to go to the provincial bargaining unit,” said Smith. “Once all three parties ratify it, the contract goes into effect.”

The process of negotiating the contract was tense, says Smith, but overall, he says he is happy with the way everything ended.

“We had to give up a couple of issues they had, and it all came together where it ended up in a tradeoff,” he said. “We gave up some things that we wanted, but in return, we got some things we wanted. I think we got a good deal, it is fair. I think it was well done.”

Smith also wants to give credit where credit is due when it comes to the negotiation practices on the SD20 side of the bargaining table.

“I just want to say that the board really moved from their stance on certain things from a year ago, when I became president,” he said. “They have moved a lot in this round of bargaining. They were long days (of negotiations) and it got a bit testy at times, but quite honestly, I think it was a good deal for both sides.”

The deadline for local negotiations is Nov. 30, but a deal was reached far ahead of the deadline.