BURNABY—The Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing 26,000 school support staff in British Columbia, has reached a tentative Provincial Framework Agreement with the BC Public Schools Employers’ Association. The Framework Agreement was unanimously endorsed by the CUPE BC K-12 Provincial Bargaining Committee and will be recommended to the CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ Council for endorsement. Each CUPE local union will now take this provincial agreement to their local table with school districts to conclude collective bargaining.
“The Provincial Framework Agreement between CUPE and the BC Public School Employers’ Association includes significant new funding and resources for CUPE members that will benefit the entire public education system,” said CUPE spokesperson 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.”
Key Provincial Framework Agreement Details
- 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.
CUPE spokesperson Bill Pegler said CUPE’s bargaining committee worked hard to achieve this deal on behalf of members. “We pushed BCPSEA to ensure they understood the issues around unpaid work for Education Assistants and skills enhancement for all members. CUPE has been advocating for significant changes since 2006 and this agreement represents meaningful gains for our members. The agreement includes new resources for skills enhancement as well as a commitment to continue with provincial bargaining into the future.”
The K-12 support staff unions have been raising concerns about the issues of unpaid Education Assistant (EA) work, lack of stable EA hours, scheduling, and lack of livable wages since 2006. Addressing these concerns have been key bargaining priorities for CUPE. The changes will allow EAs and teachers to continue and enhance their efforts to work collaboratively to support children with special needs and other students in the school system. Read more about teacher and EA collaboration in CUPE’s joint report, Roles and Responsibilities, with the BC Teachers’ Federation. This new Provincial Framework Agreement builds on the 2006 provincial settlement that saw significant gains around skills enhancement and improvements for trades workers in BC’s schools.
For more information on the role of Education Assistants and their working conditions, please read CUPE’s 2008 report Recognition and Respect. The report documents the working conditions of EAs, and in particular, looks at their unrecognized and often unpaid time. Throughout this latest round of collective bargaining CUPE pushed for increased hours and consultation time. In their presentations, CUPE representatives have outlined the nature of unpaid work occurring in schools, the need for consultation time regarding IEPs, and the potential for improved service to students with these proposed changes.