CUPE K-12: Caring for BC students and public schools

‘Zero’ progress stalls K-12 talks


VANCOUVER – Provincial K-12 bargaining talks have broken down.  Your bargaining committee reports reaching impasse with the BC Public School Employers’ Association. 

CUPE BC K-12 coordinator Bill Pegler called Wednesday’s bargaining meeting “very disappointing.”  After giving BCPSEA every opportunity to come up with a savings plan, says Pegler, “the CUPE BC Presidents’ Council Bargaining Subcommittee was expecting a proposal that would give the workers who keep our schools clean, safe and inclusive a settlement in line with the rest of BC’s recent public-sector contracts.”

Instead, says CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ Council chair Colin Pawson, “it became very evident very quickly that they had no mandate to settle.  They offered us zero in terms of wages and zero in terms of job security, and that is unacceptable for workers who have been without a wage increase since 2009.” 

Local-level talks at many of the 57 CUPE school districts are also breaking down. More than 14 CUPE locals have now passed strike votes (see below) and more are scheduled for next week and next month.  The problem, says Pawson, is the provincial government. “The school boards simply have no way to bargain meaningfully – their hands have been tied by chronic underfunding and the BC Liberals’ arbitrary imposition of a new Net Zero Mandate.” 

Provincial K-12 bargaining began last November on behalf of 27,000 CUPE education workers. BCPSEA came to the bargaining table 14 times and only managed to approve one minor housekeeping item. In February, CUPE K-12 leaders set up a meeting with BC Education Minister Don McRae, but came away shaking their heads. “It’s about respect for the work we do,” says Pawson, “and so far we’ve gotten zero from this government.”

“We clearly warned the minister that constructive action was needed to avoid the possibility of a major confrontation with K-12 workers. Apparently he didn’t heed that advice,” says Pawson.

The plan now is to arrange an all-presidents meeting to discuss next steps. 

Local strike votes so far:

CUPE Local Location # of members Vote Results
382 Greater Victoria 201 95% authorizing strike action 
411 Chilliwack 695 94% authorizing strike action 
441 Saanich 488 95% authorizing strike action 
459 Sooke 509 88% authorizing strike action 
523 Okanagan-Similkameen 193 84% authorizing strike action 
523 Okanagan-Skaha 329 79% authorizing strike action 
523 Okanagan-Shuswap 506 78% authorizing strike action 
593 Mission 414 89% authorizing strike action 
703 Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows 702 97% authorizing strike action 
947 Greater Victoria 688 95% authorizing strike action 
1260 Langley Bus Drivers/Clerical 637 87% authorizing strike action 
1851 Langley 180 98% authorizing strike action 
3523 Central Okanagan 1206 74% authorizing strike action 
3742 Prince George 667 85% authorizing strike action