Bargaining returns with school year

Negotiations with unions representing more than 25,000 school support staff are back on next week, with a strike mandate already in place

Education Minister Peter Fassbender

Negotiations with unions representing more than 25,000 school support staff are back on next week, with a strike mandate already in place for B.C.’s 60 school districts as the new school year gets underway.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Wednesday he is hopeful that a settlement with clerical staff, custodians, bus drivers and other support staff can be achieved without picket lines disrupting classes. Talks broke off in August and are set to resume for three days starting Sept. 4.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing most of the workers, says they haven’t had a raise in four years. The latest contract expired in June 2012 after a two-year wage freeze was imposed across the B.C. public service.

Fassbender wouldn’t comment directly on talks, except to say that school districts are working to set up “savings accounts” in their operations to fund wage increases within existing district budgets. The government’s “cooperative gains” mandate requires all raises to be funded by internal savings such as shared administrative functions.

CUPE is seeking raises of two per cent per year.

“Our members will take full-scale job action if the government doesn’t show a commitment to bargaining,” CUPE representative Colin Pawson said in a statement on the weekend, as the union prepared to start an advertising campaign to attract public support.

Fassbender said funding for public education is at record levels despite falling enrolment. While some urban districts are growing, the education ministry forecasts that there will be 526,000 full-time students this year, down 9,000 from the last school year. The total budget remains the same, $4.7 billion, of which about 80 per cent pays wages of teachers, support staff and administrators.

Soon after being appointed minister by Premier Christy Clark, Fassbender appointed a provincial negotiator to take over province-wide issues from the bargaining agent for school districts.

Negotiator Peter Cameron told union leaders in mid-August he would not return to talks until boards have savings plans in place. Fassbender said Wednesday that “a large majority are well underway, and many are in place” so talks can resume.

 

Just Posted

Wind warning in effect for Greater Victoria

Strong winds could reach up to 80 km/hr along coastal areas

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington for the day

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, “high avalanche danger”

Whisky society commits to charity donation in wake of whisky raids

Refund of Victoria Whiskey Festival tickets won’t impact charity beneficiaries

Victoria housing provider launches crisis prevention program to combat homelessness

Pacifica Housing aims to address challenges before tenants risk evictions

Victoria wins crucial WHL contest over Giants in Langley

Royals take over second in B.C. Division ahead of Vancouver

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Vessel washed ashore in Campbell River during last night’s storm

A vessel appears to have gotten loose and washed to shore on… Continue reading

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Final phase of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials to kick off in B.C.

Doctors hope to get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy legalized in Canada and the U.S. by 2021

WHL winning streak ends at four in Kelowna for Victoria

Royals lose 8-4 as Rockets explode offensively

Wind warning back in effect around Vancouver Island

80 km/h winds expected Saturday, Jan. 20, on east coast of Island, 100 km/h on west coast

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

UPDATE: BC Transit’s handyDart service strike in Victoria delayed

LRB application by contractor means new strike notice must be issued by union

Most Read