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CUPE education staff ‘very disappointed’
‘It’s a pretty slimy way of doing business,’ says president of union local
It doesn’t appear that a four-per-cent wage hike over three years will be enough to avert job action, according to the latest press release from CUPE, which represents some 27,000 education workers in the Kindergarten through Grade 12 system.
On Monday, the union announced that after five days of bargaining, it came away “very disappointed” with the latest offer from the province.
June Kaiser, president of CUPE Local 716, which represents Richmond elementary and high school workers, said talks are set to resume next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“If nothing changes from what you saw, then I’m pretty sure we’re looking at job action province wide.”
And that could take the form of a complete walkout, she said.
And if picket lines go up around schools, Kaiser said teachers have stated they would honour the picket lines.
Kaiser said there’s a legal requirement to give 72-hours strike notice to employers.
CUPE employees are looking for a four-per-cent wage hike over two years, with retroactive pay for the year they’ve been working without a contract.
She said the province’s offer falls far short, as it’s four-per-cent over four years, with two per cent coming during the second year, and another two per cent coming on the final day of the contract, meaning it’s not covered until the next contract.
“It’s a pretty slimy way of doing business,” Kaiser said.
Donna Sargent, chair of the Richmond board of education, said the district has not received anything official regarding the province’s offer.
“We do not have information regarding strike action and we hope we do not get there.”
On behalf of the board, Sargent wrote a letter last week to Education Minister Peter Fassbender, expressing concerns about earlier correspondence from the ministry.
“While we recognize a wage increase from CUPE employees is warranted, we feel obligated to communicate strongly and clearly that sufficient funding for education is essential in order to maintain the high quality of education we offer for all of our students,” Sargent wrote.
“It is imperative that the government make the provision of adequate funding to cover all the costs associated with K to 12 public education a top priority. This includes providing districts with funds to support any negotiated wage increases.”
Sargent’s letter also expresses concerns about the reduced role of the B.C. Public School Employers Association, which negotiates on behalf of education boards with teachers.
“The recent announcements reducing (the association) to an advisory role without consultation is alarming in its implications for the future of the co-governance model in our province,” Sargent wrote.
The government’s offer to education workers comprises a zero-per-cent wage hike in the first year, two per cent in the second, and two per cent on the last day of the contract, according to CUPE.