Potential job action by CUPE (Canada Union of Public Employees) workers could affect local schools.
CUPE’s k-12 bargaining committee is currently meeting with the province, and if a deal cannot be made, they have indicated they will pursue job action that would likely shut down schools throughout B.C.
The BCTF (B.C. Teacher’s Federation), which represents teachers throughout the province, have indicated that teachers will not cross any picket lines.
CUPE Local 2098 represents 98 employees of School District 51 (Boundary) from Christina Lake to Big White. The list of jobs affected includes bus drivers, custodians, maintenance workers, educational assistants, clerks, lunch and afterschool supervisors.
Bargaining dates set for next week between CUPE’s K-12 bargaining committee and the provincial government are crucial to achieving a fair and reasonable contract and settlement, but if the BC Liberal government doesn’t drop its demands for contract concessions, CUPE members will have no choice but to stage a full-scale province-wide strike, said CUPE BC President Mark Hancock.
“Our members have been patient, and our negotiators have been patient,” said Hancock in a press release. “And no one knows the potential impact of job action on parents and students better than our members in the K-12 sector. But the provincial government’s constant and consistent demands that our members actually receive less in a new contract are out of line with what’s happened at other negotiating tables.”
Bill Pegler, B.C. K-12 coordinator for CUPE, told the <i>Gazette that they have been without a contact since June of 2012 and haven’t had any wage adjustments since July of 2009.
“Our members are frustrated and they want to see some results at the table. They want to see us settle this,” he said. “But given that the employer is offering us less than zero, in other words their latest proposal would see our members taking a loss for this collective bargaining with concessions and an inferior wage offer. The government is pushing us towards job action and a province-wide shut down of the public education system.”
Pegler said the BCTF has always been supportive of CUPE and vice versa.
“The BCTF supported us during our lost job action in 2000 and we supported the BCTF during their job action in 2005 and 2012,” he said. “We are worked solidly together. There’s a degree of solidarity between teachers and CUPE educational workers.”
The CUPE k-12 bargaining committee will be back at the bargaining table on Monday (Sept. 16) in Richmond with BCPSEA (British Columbia Public School Employer’s Association, who bargain on behalf of the provincial government.
Pelger said CUPE has strike votes set in virtually every local throughout the province.
“We view these three days as make or break days,” he said. “Our presidents are meeting on the 19th (September) in Richmond. An optimistic person would want to report we have a good settlement. But we may be doing our final preparation for province-wide job action.”
In order to strike, CUPE would need approval from the B.C. Labour Relations Board and give 72 hours notice.
“Most importantly, we want to give parents as much notification as possible,” said Pegler. “That’s why were being very clear that these talks are make or break and they may result in a situation where we have no choice but to talk job action throughout the province.”
Pegler said the priority for CUPE at the bargaining table is getting 2 per cent in each contract year and no concession.
“We don’t think this is unreasonable,” he said. “In fact, this is exactly what government has negotiated with other unions in the public sector. So we see this as simply a matter of fairness.”