Kootenay Lake school board is the last hold out in the province when it comes to approving the CUPE bargaining provincial framework savings plan and that doesn’t sit well with several union members present at the November 19 board meeting.
CUPE workers in the district attended the meeting held at the local board office, some via teleconference from Creston, with interest and apparent frustration asking the board why it was the only district in the province not settling negotiations.
“We’re the only district in the province standing up,” responded acting chair Rebecca Huscroft.
CUPE locals throughout the province are in negotiations with local boards after the province negotiated a wage increase averting a September strike.
The Ministry of Education is asking local boards to find the money within their existing budgets without impacting core services. Kootenay Lake school board is asking CUPE to advocate with them and write a letter to the Ministry.
“For them [the Ministry of Education] to say we can’t cut services to pay for an increase is a bit of a joke,” said Huscroft addressing employees’ concerns. “We are the only district in the province advocating right now and we understand how this must look to you guys.”
Huscroft said trustees value the work of CUPE employees but increases shouldn’t come “on the backs of the board and the district.”
“We stand 100 per cent behind CUPE getting a wage increase,” she said. “But we want to send a message about how do we address reduced funding year after year.”
Natasha Morley, who speaks for the local union, said CUPE is aware of the school board’s request to join them in calling on the government to fund the wage increases and oppose the provincial savings plan requirements.
“CUPE and CUPE locals are on record as supporting full funding from the provincial government for CUPE wage increases,” she said. “Our commitment to full funding is not in question. However, our priority is a collective agreement for Local 748 members that includes the provincial framework agreement. We will not waver from that.”
The tentative provincial framework agreement included an end rate 3.5 percent wage increase over two years. The agreement provides a one per cent increase retroactive to July 1, two per cent on February 1, 2014, and 0.5 per cent on May 1, 2014.
Once settlements are achieved, they will be voted on by the memberships of the respective CUPE locals. There are 57 CUPE across BC, representing 27,000 educational support workers. The deadline for ratification of all local agreements is December 20.