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September 10, 2013

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CUPE secures additional bargaining dates but government offers are net loss for education workers

VANCOUVER—CUPE’s talks with the BC Public Schools Employers’ Association will continue on September 16, but a lack of progress on a reasonable wage increase for education workers in BC’s K-12 system threatens to shut down the public school system.

“We don’t have endless patience. Our members have been without a wage adjustment for four years. We are seeking an extremely modest raise with no concessions, but the government won’t even offer that,” said CUPE spokesperson Bill Pegler.

Other public sector settlements signed in the last year have included two percent wage increases in each year of the agreement. CUPE education workers’ demands are in line with these settlements.

“By refusing to offer education workers what has been offered to other public sector units, the government is inviting a province-wide strike that will shut down the whole public school system,” said Pegler. “The government’s negotiating position is irresponsible to parents and insensitive to the system’s lowest paid workers.”

In addition, the government is proposing to cut paid sick time by two thirds and cut sick day pay by 15 percent for the newest employees.

Recent polling conducted by Ipsos for the Canadian Union of Public Employees reveals broad support among British Columbians for a wage adjustment for education assistants and other education workers in BC’s K-12 system.

Survey highlights include:

  • 81% believe that education support worker wages should keep up with inflation.
  • When told the average annual earnings for CUPE education workers, 62% of British Columbians say these workers are under-paid.
  • 66% believe that BC’s schools need more government funding.

“CUPE education workers keep BC schools clean, safe, and inclusive. Our bargaining demand for 2 percent wage increase for each of two years is in-step with the public’s expectations of compensation,” said Pegler.

The survey was conducted online during August 30–September 4, 2013 with over 800 British Columbians from across the province. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 3.9 percentage points had all British Columbia adults been surveyed.

Virtually all of the CUPE locals representing education workers are in a strike position. CUPE locals will serve at least 72-hour strike notice before withdrawing labour and establishing picket lines.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents more than 27,000 education assistants, clerical staff, trades, Aboriginal workers, youth and family workers, custodians, and bus drivers in BC.

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