(UPDATE: As of Wednesday evening, there have been no developments to report. Both parties are still in negotiations.)
The union representing school support workers should know by Tuesday whether members will go on strike, which could shut down the province’s schools, Burnaby included.
Today is the first of three days of bargaining between CUPE B.C. and the provincial government.
“We should have a good idea by tomorrow if we’re going on strike,” said Paul Simpson, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 379, which represents Burnaby’s school support staff. “We are optimistic, but we are not as hopeful as we once were. … The positive is we’re at the table and we’re bargaining, but the concessions that have been put forth are literally the deal-breakers for my members. My members absolutely will not sign for such harsh concessions.”
Those concession include what CUPE describes as a less than zero per cent increase, “The concessions BCPSEA (the B.C. School Employers’ Association) is putting forth, from our numbers, would take way more from our members than our members would gain from the wage increases proposed,” he said.
The union is asking for at least a two per cent increase to wages.
The provincial government’s position is the wage increases would have to come out of the school districts’ budgets, something Simpson can’t agree to.
“Every single district across the province is feeling this under-funding,” he said. “We can’t support that because we know it takes away from the money that’s needed.”
If the union goes on strike, members will try to give the public as much advance notice as possible, Simpson said.
“We want too make sure people have some time to plan alternate care for their children or the students in the schools,” Simpson said. “My members all stand behind the strike mandate if necessary, but we all hope we all can get through (the bargaining).”
CUPE 379 represents more than 1,300 school support staff in Burnaby, including custodians, clerical staff, maintenance staff, noon-hour supervisors, education assistants, IT staff, crossing guards, First Nation support workers and StrongStart facilitators.
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