President pledges CUPE support for public education
18 March 2013
Bulletin No. 11
VANCOUVER – CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill decried government attempts to privatize public education in a speech to 700 BC Teachers’ Federation delegates today.
Speaking at the BCTF’s annual general meeting in Vancouver, O’Neill said “nobody has the right to sell our education,” adding that CUPE will fight any government attempts to take away public education. He added that he “has never seen such an attack on what teachers and what our CUPE members in schools do. It’s odd that when mainstream media attacks teachers, they say it’s not about students or education when really that’s exactly what it is about.”
O’Neill said “there’s this mantra that people working in education and healthcare don’t care about the jobs that they do. But they seem to forget that we are also the recipients of those same services, so it’s like saying that we don’t care about our own children’s education.”
To a standing ovation, O’Neill told delegates that “this fight to save public education in BC is critical and CUPE will always be there with you.”
If you're unable to see this article by clicking on it, download K-12 Bargaining Bulletin No. 11 82k
Presidents Call for Province Wide Strike Vote
13 February 2013
Bulletin No. 10
RICHMOND – The Presidents’ Council met Tuesday to discuss this provincial government’s latest attack on K-12 education workers.
CUPE K-12 local presidents at an all-day session in Richmond voted overwhelmingly in favour of authorizing the council’s provincial bargaining committee to prepare a province-wide, local-by-local, strike vote.
While K-12 locals are in various stages of bargaining and the provincial table has met several times with the government’s BC Public School Employers’ Association, little or no progress has been made. Council chair Colin Pawson emphasized that the goal remains a fair and reasonable contract settlement for 27,000 CUPE support workers, but that “we must be prepared for job action to get there in light of the direction this government has chosen to take.”
While a strike vote does not necessarily mean there will be a strike, it clears the way for job action if needed. This gives the provincial bargaining committee the support it needs to deal with the provincial government.
Pawson reported he has had no reply yet to his written request for a frank and open discussion with BC Minister of Education Don McRae on chronic underfunding and concerns that the government is interfering in the collective bargaining process.
McRae told school boards late last month that “there must not be any incremental cost to boards or the province as a result of collective agreements”which is justa new version of the Net Zero mandate that has kept us from getting wage increases since 2009. Earlier, the ministry suggested to school boards that there could be no wage increases above 1.5%, jumping the gun on any monetary discussions at the bargaining table.
Local presidents backed the call for a strike vote and job action saying their members “are very frustrated and more than ready” to take action to push for adequate funding of the public school system and long overdue wage increases. CUPE K-12 coordinator Bill Pegler called the vote “a clear signal to the province that K-12 education workers will stand up for what’s right.”
Download K-12 Bargaining Bulletin No. 10 63k
Presidents’ Council asks for meeting with gov’t
6 February 2013
Bulletin No. 9
BURNABY – K-12 Presidents’ Council chair Colin Pawson has written to BC Minister of Education Don McRae asking for a meeting to discuss underfunding and concerns that the government is interfering in the collective bargaining process.
The letter comes in the wake of news that McRae told school boards across the province that “there must not be any incremental cost to boards or the province as a result of collective agreements.”
In the letter, Pawson tells the minister that “a second wage freeze on workers who have been without any increase since 2009 will not bring labour peace, fair and reasonable settlements or a high performing education system.”
The letter asks McRae to “back up your praise for the work we do with fair and reasonable action” and stresses that “CUPE and its members want labour peace. But our priority is to negotiate fair and reasonable settlements in line with other education settlements.”
Bargaining at the provincial table ended in Jan. 17 with virtually no progress made towards a collective agreement. No new dates have been scheduled.
The K-12 Presidents’ Council is slated to meet next week to determine next steps for mobilizing CUPE members and standing up for our 27,000 support workers across BC.
Download K-12 Bargaining Bulletin No. 9 60k
Boards blast Minister over ‘savings plan’ demand
18 January 2013
The well is dry. We know it, the parents know it, the teachers know it and the boards of education across the province know it. More importantly, the provincial government responsible for adequately funding the public education system should know it. Sadly, that did not stop them from trying to go to the well one more time.
We have now been to the provincial bargaining table three times. Talks were adjourned last year to give the employer and the Ministry of Education “an opportunity to properly prepare for support staff bargaining. “ That turned out to be a letter from the minister telling locally-elected school boards to slash their budgets by 1.5% in each of two years to pay for long overdue support staff wage hikes and submit a “savings plan” by mid-January.
Response from school boards has been swift - there are no savings left to squeeze out of the system - only out of the quality of education for our children. In one response to Education Minister Don McRae, School District 57 (Prince George) board chair Sharel Warrington said schools have already had their budgets reduced significantly and should not have to find more savings to cover employee wage increases.
"In balancing our budgets, we have had to introduce and execute drastic measures to stretch finite resources, while at the same time striving to meet the needs of our students and district operations," said Warrington. "It is of great concern the ministry believes there are broad savings readily available in the K-12 sector." (a selection of board letters sent to the minister is available on our website at: bcschools.cupe.ca)
Now the government appears to have backed off a bit in response to the deluge of outrage from the boards, admitting to a problem with its delivery (but not necessarily its content). The ministry has now said it will meet with BCPSEA and BCSTA to discuss “a way forward.” From our perspective this looked like a clumsy attempt to direct bargaining by backhandedly telegraphing an arbitrary wage ceiling from outside the free collective bargaining process.
As CUPE BC K-12 presidents’ council chair Colin Pawson explains: “It demands unattainable cutbacks from a system already stretched past the limit by years of chronic underfunding. Add to that the government’s insistence that every school board in BC must by law deliver a ‘balanced budget’ that ignores what districts need to ensure the best quality of education possible for our children. It’s still unclear where this 1.5% figure came from. It certainly doesn't represent a realistic amount to address long overdue catch-up or even wage increases in the private sector.”
“The only way forward is for the government to accept and act on its responsibility for adequately funding public education. It would be irresponsible for this provincial government to push K-12 workers into a corner where they have to take job action to negotiate long overdue wage provisions,” says Pawson.
At this point, no further talks have been scheduled. You bargaining committee did receive a presentation this week on the concept of a standardized provincial benefits plan from Morneau Shepell, Canada’s largest administrator of pension and benefits plans.
Download Bargaining Bulletin #8 pdf 65k
Download Letters between Minister and several School Boards pdf 855k
Provincial Contract Talks Tabled
23 November 2012
Provincial K-12 contract talks have been put over until January. After seven days at the bargaining table in Vancouver, CUPE's K-12 provincial table adjourned to give the employer and the Ministry of Education an opportunity to properly prepare for support staff bargaining.
K-12 Presidents' Council chair Colin Pawson said that while the delay is disappointing, "We will hold the employers to their commitment to bargain a collective agreement when we return to the table in January.”
The Bargaining Subcommittee also held an evening session this week for a presentation by Nancy Hoyano. The Langara College instructor presented her White Paper entitled A Call for Standards of Practice for Education Assistants 120k pdf. The paper includes important information on steps being taken to improve training standards for EAs and to improve recognition and respect for the work BC's education assistants do.
Your Bargaining Subcommittee also began to explore the possibility of a provincial benefits plan. We will continue to investigate this plan to determine if economies of scale and administrative savings can deliver improvements to our CUPE K-12 members.
Provincial Bargaining well underway
09 November 2012
The CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ Council Bargaining Subcommittee has completed its first week of provincial bargaining. The Subcommittee met for five consecutive days with the BC Public School Employers’ Association in downtown Vancouver.
Committee chair Colin Pawson reports initial indications that BCPSEA seems interested in keeping the negotiations moving. To facilitate that process, the Council Subcommittee and BCPSEA have extended negotiation dates from three days later this month to seven days in a row – Nov. 19-25.
CUPE BC K-12 coordinator Bill Pegler points out that the startup to this round of talks has been much smoother now that the provincial table is well established.
In keeping with our mandated goal of improving our member benefits, the two sides agreed this week to explore health plan benefits standardization.
Your Subcommittee has presented proposals for a two-year agreement with long overdue wage increases and, where needed, provincial funding for wage regionalization and internal equity. We are also pressing job security proposals, school calendar discussions and contracting in. Also on the agenda is Municipal Pension Plan enrolment and enhanced recognition for Education Assistants.
CUPE National president Paul Moist visited the Subcommittee this week to discuss the negotiations and to pledge CUPE’s support from across the country. Moist discussed tactics and issues from other K-12 sectors in other provinces.
Provincial table set for Nov. 5-9
25 October 2012
Bargaining is slated to start for CUPE’s 26,000 education support workers in B.C. public schools. Talks at the provincial table have been scheduled for Nov. 5-9 with additional tentative dates later in November and December. Local bargaining committees are also gearing up in 57 CUPE K-12 locals across the province.
K-12 Presidents’ Council chair Colin Pawson says that “after the modest gains and government-imposed Zero Mandate in the last round of bargaining, a united CUPE K-12 will be looking for significant improvements to wages, job security and pension language.”
Pawson added that “in light of recent public-sector settlements we are optimistic that this round of bargaining can be productive and be settled without unnecessary delay.”
The Council Bargaining Subcommittee has been identifying provincial priorities. The subcommittee consists of Pawson (Chair, Metro Vancouver), Wendy Johnson (Thompson-Okanagan), June Kaiser (Metro Vancouver), Leslie Franklin (Fraser Valley), Cherryl MacLeod (Kootenays), Daphne Ross (North Island), Jan Peever (South Island) and Paula Cox (Northern Area).
CUPE’s team will present proposals for a two-year agreement with fair and reasonable wage increases to reflect inflation and, where needed, provincial funding for wage regionalization and internal equity. The bargaining subcommittee will be pressing for job security proposals designed to address declining enrollment, school calendar changes and bringing work into CUPE bargaining units.
The provincial bargaining team will also be negotiating for enrollment in the Municipal Pension Plan for CUPE members after 450 hours of work as well as getting improvements to extended health benefits through plan standardization. They will also press for new skills enhancement funds for members.
The bargaining committee will continue to work for education assistants to be guaranteed 32 hours a week plus three hours consultation & planning time. The committee also plans to open the discussion on standardization of EA qualifications and credentials.
CUPE Supports Cowichan School Board’s Stand
4 July 2012
COWICHAN— CUPE’s K-12 local in the Cowichan Valley has come out in strong support of fired School District 79 school trustees. The democratically-elected SD 79 Board was fired on Canada Day for submitting a needs-based budget instead of the province’s demand for a “balanced” budget.
“It’s regrettable that the provincial government has chosen to put political advocacy ahead of its obligation to provide the best possible public education for the children of BC,” says CUPE K-12 coordinator Bill Pegler. “The responsible management of finances to support student learning and achievement is a central responsibility of the province.”
CUPE Local 606 President Ron Farino says that “the Board of Education for School District 79 Cowichan Valley is to be commended for its determination to stand-up for the interests of children, their families and public education.
“This Board was elected to restore the damage done by provincial government underfunding - it was mandated by the public to try to restore lost programs, services and staff as part of the effort to rebuild public education in the Cowichan Valley,” says Farino.
The province fired the Cowichan School Board after it voted for a “restoration budget” to address vital school services such as adequate hours of work for education assistants, custodial time, technology courses and bus service. The province has now appointed a special administrator to run the school district and members of the fired board are reportedly studying their legal options.
The Board’s refusal to sanction another deficit budget is an important piece of advocacy on behalf of all British Columbians committed to providing quality public education for our children after a decade of substandard funding, says CUPE. Current levels of funding undermine public schooling and further erode public confidence in the province’s commitment to quality programs and student excellence.
CUPE is calling on the provincial government to step back from its inadequate funding by restoring funding to levels capable of addressing student needs and making our school system the best that it can be. It is also calling for meaningful discussions with school boards instead of firing them.
View letter (265k - PDF) from CUPE 606. Send your own support letter for SD 79 to BC Minister of Education George Abbott firstname.lastname@example.org and BC NDP Education Critic Robin.Austin.MLA@leg.bc.ca
RICHMOND—The CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ Council Provincial Bargaining Committee held its first meeting Wednesday in Richmond. Regional representatives from across the province met to start the process of mapping out 2012 bargaining priorities and strategy.
The meeting follows the Presidents’ Council’s notice to bargain issued last week to the BC Public School Employers Association on behalf of CUPE K-12 locals. Council chair Colin Pawson focused today’s discussion on key bargaining issues identified at last month’s Presidents’ Council meeting including job security, wages, benefits, improved pension access for casual members and the term of an agreement. Actual talks are not expected to get underway before September.
CUPE National research representative John Malcolmson provided background information on the ongoing K-12 online member survey, cost of living and details of the provincial government’s imposed “cooperative gains” process.
CUPE BC K-12 coordinator Bill Pegler stressed the importance of the meeting saying “this is where we hash out our provincial strategy – where every region is represented and gets a chance for input.”
CUPE represents 26,000 public education support staff including education assistants, First Nations support workers, StrongStart facilitators, custodians, school secretaries, trades and maintenance workers and bus drivers in BC’s public schools.
CUPE BC K-12 co-ordinator Bill Pegler notified the BC Public School Employers Association on behalf of member locals across BC. Individual CUPE locals also gave notice to bargain. The K-12 sector bargains at two levels – a provincial table and at the CUPE Local level. Talks are expected to get underway in the Fall.
In preparation for the upcoming negotiations, the CUPE Provincial Bargaining Committee will hold its first meeting this week. The committee, comprised of regional representatives, will begin the process of taking the priorities set by our presidents on May 24 and preparing provincial bargaining proposals.
Presidents’ Council chair Colin Pawson said that “after the modest gains and zero mandate in the last round of bargaining, a united CUPE K-12 will be looking for significant improvements to wages, job security and pension language.”
The members of the CUPE Provincial Bargaining Committee by region are:
Cherryl MacLeod (CUPE 1285), Ann Purvis (CUPE 440), Sue Krause (ALT) (CUPE 4165)
Central & North Vancouver Island
Ron Farino (CUPE 606), Daphne Ross (CUPE 476), Laura Johnston (ALT) (CUPE 727)
South Vancouver Island
Gilles LaRose (CUPE 382), Jan Peever (CUPE 459), Dean Coates (ALT) (CUPE 441)
Leslie Franklin (CUPE 703), Rod Isaac (CUPE 411), George Forsythe (ALT) (CUPE 593)
Colin Pawson (CUPE 1091), Janice Meehan (CUPE 728), June Kaiser (CUPE 716), Marcel Marsolais (CUPE 409), Paul Simpson (CUPE 379), Warren William (ALT) (CUPE 15)
Clara Maltby (CUPE 523), Wendy Johnson (CUPE 3523), Sean Harris (ALT) (CUPE 523)
Denice Bardua (CUPE 4990), Paula Cox (CUPE 4177), Wilma Maier (ALT) (CUPE 2052)
CUPE represents 26,000 public education support staff including education assistants, first nations support workers, StrongStart facilitators, custodians, school secretaries, trades and maintenance workers and bus drivers in B.C.'s public schools.
The Labour Relations Board today has affirmed that BC teachers do indeed have the right to withdraw their participation in voluntary extra-curricular activities.
In a ruling issued today, LRB Vice-Chair Ritu Mahil found that "the Union has not declared or authorized an unlawful strike by directing its members to refrain from participating in activities which occur outside of class time/instructional hours and are truly voluntary and extra-curricular."
BCTF President Susan Lambert welcomed the decision saying: "This is a significant legal victory for teachers because it clarifies the distinction between voluntary and non-voluntary work, and it reaffirms that the countless hours that teachers devote to extra-curricular activities with students truly are voluntary. We've always known that, but it's excellent to have it confirmed by the Labour Relations Board."
Lambert added, however, that the decision will offer cold comfort to teachers, who feel disrespected by the needlessly provocative actions of the BC Public School Employers¹ Association.
"Public education in BC has become over-reliant on the goodwill of teachers and, despite a decade of underfunding and attacks on our rights, we have kept on digging deeper and giving more in order to hold the system together," Lambert said. "Now the employer has taken us to the LRB in an attempt to compel goodwill and force volunteerism. It's as if they are intentionally trying to shred the relationship."
Instead of engaging in such damaging legal battles, Lambert called on the BCPSEA and government to work with the BCTF to reach a fair compromise and resolve the outstanding issues in the labour dispute.
Mahil also found that the BC Teachers' Federation has not engaged in an unlawful strike by directing its members to minimally participate in meetings with school administrators. However, she did find that the BCTF must direct members to participate in meetings and activities which are part of their work duties even though they occur outside of instructional hours. The BCTF will promptly inform its members of the ruling.
The full text of the LRB decision, is here:
LRB's Bottom Line Decision
- 30 -
For more information, contact Nancy Knickerbocker, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).
RICHMOND - The CUPE K-12 Presidents’ Council has held its first planning session for 2012 bargaining.
The council discussed a timetable for talks, strategy and bargaining priorities at the local and provincial levels. But, before the bargaining discussions could get underway, elections were held. Council chair Terry Allen retired this month after more than 30 years of service. The new Council chair is Colin Pawson CUPE 1091 Delta (pictured far right). Also elected (from left) are treasurer Paula Cox CUPE 4177 Nechako Lakes, vice-chair Marcel Marsolais CUPE 409 New Westminster and recording secretary Donna Mason CUPE 1260 Langley.
CUPE K-12 co-ordinator Bill Pegler provided an extensive background report as well as outlining bargaining expectations: “CUPE K-12 members want secure, family supporting jobs. This means protections against arbitrary changes due to declining enrolment, more paid time to do the work, respectful wage increases and extended health benefits improvements.”
“In this round, we have the advantage of working with all CUPE locals and the broad public sector trade unions to help achieve a respectful and reasonable settlement,” added Pegler. Pawson called it “an exciting development that gives us a united front against this provincial government for real job security and a substantial wage increase.”
The specifics of local and provincial priorities will be formulated in part using the results of the first ever K-12 support staff bargaining survey.
The process to create a provincial bargaining committee from the seven regions should be completed next week and a first meeting will be scheduled. The presidents at yesterday’s meeting welcomed CUPE 3500 into the fold, meaning that the Council now represents all 56 K-12 CUPE locals in BC.