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

Daphne Ross, president CUPE Local 476 - image 0

Daphne Ross, president CUPE Local 476

Daphne Ross is president of CUPE 476 in Powell River, a small local representing 160 members.  She represents North Island in provincial bargaining.

Can you tell me a bit about your history with provincial bargaining?

I was on the sectoral bargaining committee, way back there (the precursor of the Presidents’ Council).  I was also on the Presidents Council sub-committees for two bargaining rounds.

What are some of the challenges we face in provincial bargaining?

The workload is very heavy and it is difficult to know what everyone in the area you represent has within their collective agreement.  Provincial bargaining members want to improve the wages, benefits and rights of the members in their region.  It is imperative that no one loses as a result of being part of the Presidents Council. 

It is difficult to be in intensive bargaining for several days because the meetings may go very late into the evening and you must remain sharp and check your notes regularly.

What are some of your goals in bargaining?

My goal is to represent all of the people that I’m there to speak for, and to ensure that no one is going to lose anything. The Employer had our sick leave on the table in 2012 and we had to figure out the real value of that and ensure the Employer knew we had already paid for it in order to get it into our contracts in the first place.  We have paid for it again by reducing the wage increase from 4% to 3.5%.

How can members support the efforts of the bargaining committee?

Make sure they read anything that we send out and contact us if they have any questions.  In my region we had a conference call arranged to report out so that we didn’t report individually in writing from the table.

If you could give a message to the employers, what would that be?

Our employer for the most part is pretty easy to get along with.  I mean, comparatively speaking – we have our issues, but we work them out.  We always come to some kind of resolution.  The government has been underfunding for a long time, and squeezing education.  I work at an alternate school and we have to get by with very little.  I mean just textbooks, and basic things like that are hard to come by.  I know that the schools in my district are scrambling just to try and find the necessary tools for service delivery like an iPad to work with autistic kids.  There are some basic things that would help with instruction that are denied.   I think funding education properly is important and that Educational Assistants are there and involved in the whole process.

What do you think members need to know about bargaining?

I think that they have to understand that we’re there to represent a whole region, and so if they have concerns, they need to make sure that their concerns are delivered to the people that are bargaining on their behalf. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I think that it’s been a really good experience to learn how to work with people from all over the province, because we’re in a small town like Mayberry and compared to larger locals such as Burnaby, and Surrey our problems are different, but working together to find the resolutions remain the same.