What was once tentative is now a done deal. Burnaby's unionized school support workers have finalized an agreement with the B.C. Public School Employees Association - and they did it under the government's net-zero mandate.
The workers are mostly education assistants, custodians and clerical workers and are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 379.
"I think the net-zero mandate is difficult for everyone, but the reality is we were able to get significant recognition and respect for education assistants' unpaid work," said Bill Pegler, spokesperson for CUPE 379. "The assistants, because of the way hours are structured, they end up doing a lot of unpaid work. We were able to get dedicated pot of money provincewide that addressed that, and it was a major, major win."
Pegler said there would not have been a deal, had there been no money. The deal was struck under the net-zero mandate, meaning public sector contracts for 2010 and 2011 will not include any wage increases. Any raises have to be offset by savings in other compensation areas. Meanwhile, B.C. teachers are on a three-day strike because of failed negotiations with the provincial government - the net-zero mandate being one of the main sticking points. The provincial government has stressed that other groups are settling under the net-zero mandate, while the B.C. Teachers' Federation considered it an example of breaking the net-zero mandate.
Unlike the teachers' contracts, which are mostly negotiated at a provincial level, the support workers' contracts are largely bargained locally, so different districts sealed the deal at varying times. Burnaby's CUPE workers finalized their agreement Feb. 19, and the contract is good for two years but expires this upcoming June because the parties negotiated for several months.