School employers hammer out an agreement with CUPE

By David F. Rooney

The BC Public School Employers’ Association is “very happy about the agreement we have reached with the support staff unions” in the K-12 public education sector, Vice-Chairman Alan Chell said Friday.

He said representatives from BCPSEA and Canadian Union of Public Employees hammered out the agreement in “12 or 13 meetings.”

“It was a completely different environment (from BCPSEA’s so-far-fruitless negotiations with the BC Teacher’s Federation),” Chell said. (Click here to read more about that.)

BCPSEA Chairwoman Melanie Joy said the discussions were “solution-oriented and the results will allow the parties to continue important policy discussions of interest to both the employers and the unions.”

It is now the responsibility of each school district and their respective local support staff unions to conclude local bargaining and ratify their collective agreements. Parties who conclude agreements by February 29, 2012 will be able to include the framework agreement in their local collective agreement and participate in the terms of the framework agreement.

BCPSEA is the accredited bargaining agent for the province’s 60 public boards of education.

For CUPE’s part, spokesman Bill Pegler “while the agreement adheres to the government’s net-zero mandate, CUPE’s consistent advocacy to have the unpaid work of Education Assistants recognized has led to an agreement that will provide several million dollars more in services to students and compensation for CUPE members.

The agreement will benefit all members as it promotes a skills enhancement agenda, enshrines a stable bargaining environment, and delivers a deal with no concessions, he said.

The key details of the agreement are listed below:

  • The agreement’s term is July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2012.
  • There are no concessions for CUPE.
  • $7.5 million in new, ongoing funding to recognize and correct unpaid work for Education Assistants from the government’s Class Organization Fund. Funding will commence in September 2012, and continue each year thereafter. This translates to about 45 minutes of extra paid time per week for each eligible Education Assistant. Local unions and school districts will work through a joint committee to access the funding, which will flow from the Ministry of Education.
  • $550,000 in new funding for the Support Staff Education and Adjustment Committee (SSEAC) for skills enhancement. The funding will also be used to study wage regionalization and other key issues. Distribution of those funds will be subject to mutual agreement between the two parties.
  • A commitment, including $200,000 in financial support, to solidify a framework for provincial bargaining, a key goal of CUPE since 1999.
  • CUPE gains access to sector demographic and classification information for research purposes.
  • A wage reopener clause in the event the public sector wage mandate changes over the life of the agreement.