An open letter from CUPE BC and the BCTF

Dear colleagues, sisters, and brothers,

BC’s public education system thrives because of the work you all do in classrooms, schools, board offices, and communities. As educators, school support staff, teachers, skilled trades-people, bus drivers, and professionals we all work together to give students a high-quality, inclusive, and safe education. As unions we work to ensure all of our members are treated fairly and our students get the support they need and deserve.

We are reaching out to each and every member of the BCTF and CUPE BC education sector to provide an update on bargaining and our efforts to secure fair and reasonable collective agreements. While the government is pushing a 10-year term in the media for the BCTF, they are trying to force a 2-year deal on CUPE, one that falls far short of what other public sector unions have received recently. In addition, the government has said it will force school boards to pick up the tab for any salary increase for CUPE workers without any extra funding. If that happens, we will all see more cuts filter down to our classrooms, worksites, and students. We must all stand together in solidarity to make sure that doesn’t happen and convince government it is time to respect BC’s education workers and protect services for students.

While CUPE still has some bargaining dates set, the most recent offer of 0%, 2%, and another 2% on the last day of the proposed contract is less than what other public sector workers have achieved and is essentially less than zero after concessions. CUPE locals have taken strike votes and they are prepared to activate them with full-scale job action if the government does not improve its offer. The BCTF, in support, unanimously passed two resolutions at its special summer Representative Assembly declaring their support for CUPE. Here are the resolutions:

That the Federation call upon the provincial government to negotiate in good faith with CUPE and to fully fund any negotiated settlement.

That the Federation express solidarity with CUPE and support for its efforts to conclude a negotiated collective agreement.

In the likely event of a strike that sees CUPE workers set up picket lines at school sites, teachers will respect them and join with CUPE in solidarity. Teachers who were part of the BCTF’s two-week strike in October 2005 will remember CUPE’s K–12 workers joined those picket lines in support of teachers’ efforts to get a fair deal and improve learning conditions.

In March 2012, BCTF members escalated their job action with a three-day strike under essential services. CUPE members did not cross picket lines. Due to an essential services order and a Labour

Relations Board ruling, the BCTF was only allowed to establish “sticket” lines—not traditional picket lines. Had they been official picket lines, CUPE members were ready and willing to walk those lines with teachers again, but they refrained from doing so at the BCTF’s request.

All members, whether you are with the BCTF or CUPE, should contact your local union office if you want more information in the days and weeks ahead about how picket lines and strike pay work. BCTF and CUPE local presidents are currently meeting to share information. CUPE and the government will be back at the bargaining table on September 16, 17, and 18. We will inform all of you as soon as we receive any news. Please know that the CUPE bargaining subcommittee is not optimistic a settlement can be reached without job action.

Despite the uncertainty ahead and knowledge that we are facing a government intent on downloading costs to boards, forcing cuts onto students, and restricting wage increases for our members, we remain hopeful that working together we can achieve a fair result.

We all make a real, constructive, and positive difference in the lives of students and families across BC. Parents, school trustees, and many other stakeholders know how important your work is and they are on your side. They know that a fair deal for our members means better support for BC students. By standing together, we will be stronger and have a better chance of convincing government that they need to take a fair and reasonable approach to bargaining.

CUPE and the BCTF’s interests are the same. We must continue to stand together to defend the interests of all our members, and each and every student we proudly support.

In solidarity,

Mark Hancock, President, CUPE BC                                 Jim Iker, President, BCTF

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