While SD20 teachers now face the prospect of a net-zero wage negotiation in their next bargaining session with the province, some of their support staff are now living with that reality in a new contract.
The British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) board of directors ratified a two-year collective agreement for support staff with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in School District 20 (Kootenay Boundary) under their 2010 net-zero mandate.
The collective agreement was reached through “collaborative” discussions between the BCPSEA — the accredited bargaining agent for the province’s 60 public boards of education — and union bargaining team representing SD20 K-to-12 support staff in December 2011.
However, it wasn’t until recently the agreement had been ratified at the local level.
In their negotiations, as with the B.C. Teachers Federation, the province had been clear there was no new money to fund wage increases.
Bill 22, which passed Thursday, outlawed any further job action by teachers until Aug. 31 and called for the appointment of a mediator, although wage demands would not be dealt with in the mediation.
Although there are still some agreements to be negotiated with other unions under the 2010 mandate, nearly all of B.C.’s public-sector collective agreements covered by the 2010 mandate are now settled for two years of net-zero.
However, the province has stated their mandate gives public sector employers the ability to look for operational savings — that may be applied to modest wage increases — as long as services are maintained and costs are held to existing budgets.
According to a government website (www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/psec/), an increase of one per cent in total compensation for all unionized public sector employees would cost the province approximately $196 million each year.
If applied to non-union and management groups, the cost increases to about $237 million annually.
There are approximately 300,000 unionized workers employed in the public service across the West Kootenay and British Columbia, at Crown corporations and agencies, and in the K-12, post-secondary, health and community social services sectors.