School strike still a waiting game

CUPE K-12 Presidents’ Council "very disappointed" with latest offer from government.

FILE: School District 20 logo

FILE: School District 20 logo

After five straight days of bargaining between the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the provincial government last week, the two sides are preparing to return to the table again in the hopes of preventing a strike that could effectively shut down schools across B.C.

“We bargained all weekend and are not done,” said Cherryl MacLeod, CUPE local 1285 president on  Monday, Sept. 9. “We are meeting at the CUPE office today [in Burnaby] to figure out what we’re going to do next. We have a date to come back and meet with the employer next Monday [Sept. 16].”

CUPE represents more than 27,000 education workers in B.C.’s public schools.

“We have pretty active strike votes and memberships at home that are not happy waiting,” said MacLeod. “We’ve waited a long time to even get to the table.”

A bargaining bulletin provided by CUPE the same day stated the union was “very disappointed” with the latest offer.

“This latest proposal shows a real lack of respect for the intelligence of education workers and their ability to add and subtract,” said Colin Pawson, chair of the K-12 Presidents’ Council. “We have new bargaining dates next week, but unless the government changes its position significantly, we need to be prepared for job action. We are very disappointed.

”The bulletin said the compensation offer was zero in the first year, two per cent in the second, and two per cent on the last day of the contract, which the union said is not on par with what other public-sector unions have negotiated in recent months.

The union also said the offer proposed to eliminate accrued sick leave in all local agreements through a three-tiered contract structure.MacLeod wasn’t prepared to say if what has been presented so far seems reasonable or not but said having the province “go after sick leave” was something that has many CUPE members upset.

“We hold that pretty near and dear,” she said.

Andy Davidoff, School District 20 Kootenay Columbia Teachers’ Union president, said in a conversation with the Castlegar News on Aug. 26, that the BCTF fully supports CUPE and would not cross their picket lines.

Davidoff said they are waiting to see what the government proposes and what the next steps are.