School District 20 – Plan to cover wage increases still under wraps

“The savings plan is not written in stone,” said Darrel Ganzert. “We didn’t want to needlessly concern people in the education system.”

One question went unanswered during the School District 20 board meeting on Monday in Trail.

Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union (KCTU), posed a question regarding the board’s plan regarding funding the government negotiated wage increase for SD 20 non-teaching Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) members.

It was deferred by board chair, Darrel Ganzert, for later discussion.

“The savings plan is not written in stone,” said Ganzert. “We didn’t want to needlessly concern people in the education system.”

Davidoff later expressed his frustration at the lack of response to his questions to the future funding issue.

“The government downloaded the CUPE wage settlement onto the local boards,” he said. “But we want to know where they’re cutting and why is it a secret.”

The Provincial Framework Agreement was reached between provincial government negotiators and CUPE non-teaching education workers which committed local school boards to provide for a 1 percent retroactive wage increase from July 1, 2012, as well as an additional 2 per cent on Feb. 1, 2014, and 0.5 per cent on May 1, 2014 with no increase to their existing funding from the province.

School districts around B.C. were required to provide budgets funding the wage increases for the current year by mid-October and complete plans to fund the remainder of the contract in December.

“We provided the government with a long term plan. Some one-time savings, some long term. Things like savings on our telephone networks,” said Ganzert.

“But to find long term savings when 89 per cent of the budget goes to wages and benefits, it’s impossible not to look at that.

“The reason we haven’t said anything is nothing is finalized yet. Rather than striking fear into the hearts of staff we wanted to wait until the budget is finalized. Until we know exactly where it’s going we’re not releasing any speculation,” Ganzert explained.

Although Davidoff’s primary focus is on protecting the interests of his local’s membership he acknowledged the position of local boards in finding the funding to maintain educational standards.

“The government told boards to prepare savings plans without cutting back on core services but where can they cut?” said Davidoff.

“I’m not blaming the local board. Educational Assistant replacement issues and protocols are the board’s responsibilities but with the budget issues, the board isn’t doing this intentionally.”

A recent all-party committee established by the B.C. Government sought input in communities around the province to determine budget priorities in a variety of areas of government programs and responsibilities.

The committee, which was in Trail Oct. 1 seeking input, released its findings Nov. 7, including numerous recommendations on ensuring adequate funding on the province’s education system.

“The government is apparently bringing changes in February to the education system legislation,” said Ganzert. “I’m assuming this will include the Clarke government’s “Long Term Peace” plans for coming up with a long-term agreement with the teacher’s union and drafting legislation. What that looks like, nobody knows. The recent all-party finance committee report, which was dominated by Liberals, all agreed that education was under funded and we’re seeing it affecting facilities, students…. The government should consider increasing funding to education but I guess time will tell.”

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