Talks stalled as school support workers cast strike vote

NANAIMO – Support workers in school district a step closer to job action.

Support workers in Nanaimo school district are one step closer to job action.

The district’s support workers recently voted 89 per cent in favour of strike action. Support worker contracts expired last June and union officials say contract talks have stalled.

Rob Zver, president of CUPE Local 606, said bargaining at the provincial table is at a standstill and at the local table union officials were told improvements to contracts can only be discussed under the provincial government’s co-operative gains mandate, which requires employers to pay for any wage increases within the existing budget.

But in December, when Education Minister Don McRae sent districts letters asking that boards find savings in their budgets equal to 1.5 per cent of support staff compensation both this year and next year to pay for wage increases, school board chairman Jamie Brennan replied with a letter stating the district would not comply with the request and that it would be impossible to do so without affecting services for students.

Zver said the main issues are job security and wages – workers haven’t had a wage increase since 2009 and the union is concerned that even if workers give up something to get a wage increase, this could translate into more job losses in the future because the province isn’t funding the system adequately.

“We’ve done our years of zeros,” he said. “You have to give up something, but it doesn’t mean funding is available in the future. We want some job security built in, too.”

Zver said the union would have to serve 72-hour strike notice through the B.C. Labour Relations Board before any job action takes place and it doesn’t look like any action is likely before the end of the school year.

“We still have another date to go into negotiations this month … and we’ll see how it goes from there,” he said.

School support workers across the province are taking strike votes.

Bill Pegler, CUPE B.C.’s K-12 coordinator, said 34 locals have successfully completed strike votes and he expects all 57 to have completed voting by the end of June.

He said the province is saying there is no money for wage increases, which is unacceptable for a group of workers that had no increase since 2009.

“We are only looking for what the other public sector unions have been able to negotiate,” said Pegler.

Any job action would likely be co-ordinated provincewide, he added.

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said trustees would have to make cuts to programs and services to pay for any wage increases out of the existing budget.

“We don’t have any money and that’s what CUPE wants,” he said. “I haven’t heard there’s any change in the position of government with regard to funding pay increases.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maintenance work sees Sunday morning ferry sailing from Nanaimo cancelled

B.C. Ferries says Queen of Cowichan’s scheduled 6:15 a.m. sailing cancelled

Proposed Ladysmith brewpub passes public hearing stage

Shoot the Moon pub is one step closer after a packed public hearing this week

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Speeding tickets aren’t a deterrent

Old Island Highway speeds over 60km/h make no sense with the number of malls, says letter writer

UPDATED: Child struck by vehicle outside school spent night in hospital

Six-year-old girl sustained non-life-threatening injuries in incident on Dunbar Road

Mid-Island Celtic band turns Scottish history into music in new show

Celtic Chaos presents ‘For the Highlanders’ at Unitarian Hall on Robbie Burns Day

WHO says China virus not global health emergency

The decision came after Chinese authorities moved to lock down three cities on Thursday

VIDEO: ‘Porn’ answer was a wrong one for Surrey family on ‘Feud’ game show

Surrey’s Rams competed on the TV show Wednesday night

Abandoned boats left to freeze on Okanagan Lake cause chaos

Over the last week weather conditions have caused three separate incidents

B.C. teacher witnesses coronavirus terror in Shanghai: ‘Everyone is on edge’

Face masks and hand sanitizer ‘sell out’ as 9 SARS-like illness cases confirmed in the city

B.C.-based firefighting plane crashes in Australia, killing three

Three people are confirmed dead in the crash in New South Wales

Remote surveillance helps RCMP nab suspect immediately in Island break-in

Stolen items returned after Parksville business owner takes quick action

Living near major roads linked to higher risk of dementia, Parkinson’s: UBC study

Green space could mitigate some of the risks, researchers found

B.C. privacy commissioner suggests media civility for Prince Harry and Meghan

Lawyers for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reportedly sent a letter to British press threatening legal action

TODAY: Black Press Media Extreme Career and Education Fair! Don’t forget your resumé

A strong resumé leaves a lasting impression – literally

Most Read