School support workers will not go on strike, now that their union has reached an agreement with the provincial government’s bargaining agency, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association.
Both parties started negotiations on Monday, and news that an agreement was reached was released late Wednesday night.
School support workers will get a 3.5 per cent wage increase over two years, covered by school district budgets, and concessions the provincial government put forward have been dropped.
According to Paul Simpson, president of CUPE local 379, which represents Burnaby school support workers, the union was asking for a four per cent wage increase, while the government was putting forth deal-breaking concessions that would have resulted in less money overall. Simpson said there will be no strike, but the agreement still has to be ratified by all union locals.
“I think it appeases most of the members’ concerns,” he told the NOW. “The concessions were all the taken off the table, the original wage was reduced, so there’s only a 3.5 per cent (increase) rather than four.”
Greg Frank, secretary-treasurer for the Burnaby school district, said a 3.5 per cent increase would cost the district $1.5 million.
“It will be a challenge for the board to identify the saving that will be required because the savings must be sustainable,” Frank said.
While many districts around the province are strapped for cash, Burnaby finished the last fiscal year with a “modest surplus,” which will be revealed publicly next Tuesday, when the district’s audited financial statements go before the board. Frank said the district has balanced the budget for the current year, but they are working on a plan to save money to cover the wage increase for support staff.
“All districts have been asked to do that,” Frank said.
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.The agreement covers roughly 33,000 school support staff provincewide.
Burnaby parent Tammy Ozero was relived to hear the news, as she’s spent that past year organizing an upcoming 100th anniversary celebration at Second Street Community School.
“It was just like a relief, a huge relief,” she said. “It’s been a year of planning. It’s nice to have them work together, both sides, and come to an agreement, so the celebration can still go on.”
For more details on the agreement, go to www.cupe379.ca.
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