Tentative deal for school support staff

Looming job action by Greater Trail education support staff has been averted with a tentative two-year contract.

Looming job action by education support staff has been averted with a tentative two-year contract.

The BC Public School Employers’ Association and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) BC says a 3.5 per cent wage increase has been negotiated over the life of the deal.

But the challenge locally will be finding long-term money in School District 20 (SD20), says SD20 board chair Darrel Ganzert.

“In the short term, things are looking very positive that we could find that money,” he said Thursday.

“Sadly, there’s lots of demands for any wee bit of surplus we can generate and unfortunately because the way the government has managed it, we’d be required to give that to CUPE.

“Again, they deserve a raise but it ought to be funded by the provincial government, only.”

The board will be meeting Monday in a closed meeting to talk about where this money could come from, according to Natalie Verigin, SD20 secretary-treasurer.

“The board will be receiving and approving the 2012/2013 audited financial statements (at) Monday night’s board meeting,” she said.  “It will highlight any unallocated funds we might be able to use to fund Year One of any settlement.”

The board is looking for approximately $134,000 for the 2013/2014 school year but ongoing, she added,  the anticipated costs will be about $245,000 per year and the board can’t use one-time funds nor surplus to fund these wage increases.

Cherryl MacLeod, CUPE Local 1285 president, will now take this provincial financial agreement to the table and tie up any local ends with the school board before presenting it to SD20’s 230 members.

She had mixed feelings about the deal Thursday when the Trail Times reached her via phone in Vancouver.

“We had initially, right from the very start, said that we wanted our agreement to be provincially funded,” she said. “People were expecting two and two, we’ve told our members all along that we weren’t going to accept anything less.”

Ganzert is optimistic that a short-term solution will be reached but is not sitting as comfortably when asked about the long-term picture.

“Sadly, in the business we’re in . . . 88, 89 per cent of our budget is in personnel,” he said. “So you can extrapolate as well anybody where it’s going to have to come from largely and that’s the real sad part about it.”

CUPE represents school bus drivers, custodians, clericals, maintenance, tech and trades, education assistants, childcare and child and youth care workers and aboriginal education employees.