PORT HARDY—Six more school districts and more than 2,600 support staff workers, including members of Vancouver Island North CUPE Local 401, have recently ratified new collective bargaining agreements, the provincial government announced last week.
The agreement covering 199 support staff workers with School District 85 was announced in June, shortly before the end of the school year. The SD85-CUPE 401 agreement was ratified early in July and approved by the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association July 16.
“We’re happy,” said Joanne Welch of Port Hardy, unit chair for the SD85 support staff workers. “We ratified it quite fast. Our membership came out in the summer to make sure it was done.”
The term of the new agreement for each district is from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2019. It provides for a 5.5 per cent wage increase over the five years of the term, with potential for additional increases if the B.C. economy exceeds the annual forecasts set by the Economic Forecast Council during the last four years of the agreement.
CUPE members under a ratified agreement will also benefit from an employee support grant, which reimburses each employee for all scheduled work hours for which the employee has not otherwise been paid during the BCTF strike. The first phase of the grant covered the period through June 30. A second grant is in effect from July 1 through the end of November, Welch said.
“It’s good that we’ve ratified it, because it gives us some options if (the teachers) are still off,” said Welch. “But we’d like to see them back.”
The BCTF strike has continued into the summer, with no talks scheduled between the union and BCPSEA negotiators.
The agreements with the CUPE locals were ratified under the B.C. government’s 2014 Economic Stability Mandate. Other recently ratified agreements cover support staff workers in SD38 (Richmond), SD53 (Okanagan Similkameen), SD61 (Greater Victoria), SD67 (Okanagan Skaha) and SD83 (Okanagan-Shuswap).
To date, the government said, more than 6,800 support staff workers in 16 school districts have fully ratified agreements in place. The remaining districts are working to ratify agreements by November.
The government’s Economic Stability Mandate provides public-sector employers the ability to negotiate longer-term agreements within a fixed fiscal envelope, and offers employees an opportunity to participate in the province’s economic growth through the Economic Stability Dividend. Settlements are expected to be unique and to reflect priorities negotiated to ensure labour stability and affordable service delivery throughout B.C.