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October 16, 2013

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Local K-12 bargaining shows how provincial budget cuts impact students—CUPE BC

BURNABY—As CUPE’s K-12 Locals in BC begin concluding collective bargaining with school districts, the need for increased funding for public education from the BC Liberal government is becoming even clearer, CUPE BC President Mark Hancock said today.

“Tight budgets at the school district level point to a need for funding adjustments at the provincial level,” said Hancock. “While CUPE Locals continue to work with school boards to make sure learning opportunities for all students are protected, the system is hundreds of millions of dollars behind where it was ten years ago.”

The BC government’s ‘Cooperative Gains Mandate’ dictates that services that affect students cannot be cut from boards of education budgets. 

“CUPE members do the important work that keeps BC schools clean, safe and inclusive,” said Hancock. “Our education system has already been cut to the bone by the BC government, and more cuts will only mean services for students will suffer.”

The Provincial Framework Agreement negotiated by the BC Government and education workers provides for a 1 percent wage increase on July 1, 2013, 2 percent on February 1, 2014, and 0.5 percent on May 1, 2014. Projected over the two-year term of the agreement, school districts face a 1.92 percent adjustment for the 2013/2014 cycle. The combined cost of wage adjustments for this year is approximately $19 million across BC’s 60 school districts.  

“CUPE will continue working with school board trustees in calling on the provincial government to adequately fund BC schools,” said Hancock. “After negotiating this deal with education workers, it is reasonable for the provincial government to adjust its budget to protect the vital services education workers provide.”

Seven CUPE Locals have now reached local settlements: Local 15 in District 39 (Vancouver), Local 173 in District 74 (Gold Trail), Local 476 in District 47 (Powell River), Local 703 in District 42 (Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows), Local 593 in District 75 (Mission) and Locals 1260 and 1851 in District 35 (Langley).

 “The average CUPE education worker earns only $24,000 a year, and has gone without a raise for 4 years,” said Hancock. “Even with this adjustment, education workers make less than they did in 2001.”

For the past decade, funding levels failed to reflect support staff’s contribution to public education, with education workers repeatedly suffering cuts to hours, and layoffs. Over the course of the past decade of “mandate-driven” negotiations in the K-12 sector, wage levels fell significantly behind the rate of inflation.

“CUPE education workers deserve the wage increases they have negotiated for the 2012-14 period,” added Hancock. “And they deserve to receive these increases without threat of lost jobs, work hours, or services for BC students. “

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