No strike yet

School support staff continue contract negotiations with the provincial government this week in Vancouver


School support staff that issued a strike mandate earlier this year are sitting tight for now.

CUPE BC is presently negotiating a new contract for its 27,000 members with the B.C. government. Support staff includes custodians, secretaries, library clerks, special education assistants, youth care workers, bus drivers, crossing guards, lunch program aides, IT technicians, journeymen and noon hour supervisors

The negotiations come after the education workers passed a strike vote in April.

CUPE has said that this week’s bargaining dates are crucial in achieving what it considers a fair and reasonable contract settlement. If negotiations fall apart, CUPE BC president Mark Hancock said in a statement last week, CUPE members will issue a full-scale province-wide strike.

“Our members have been patient, and our negotiators have been patient,” said

Hancock. “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 provincial negotiating tables.”

In School District No. 6 (Rocking Mountain) CUPE 440 represents 170 members over the Golden, Invermere and Kimberley zones.

Local 440 President Ann Purvis was on her way to Vancouver Wednesday for a meeting called for Thursday with all local presidents. Purvis was feeling somewhat optimistic about this week’s negotiations.

“We had three days booked this week for bargaining with the province — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” Purvis said. “I’m thinking it’s looking promising because they are still talking. All the presidents have been called to Vancouver. It could be the province has put another offer on the table.”

Education workers are seeking a pay increase, their first since 2009, and an improved benefits package.

The provincial government has said that wage increases would have to come out of school district’s operating budgets.

As it turns out, Purvis was correct in being optimistic, as a tentative deal was reached early Thursday morning.