Kootenay Lake School Board passes cost savings plan motion; bargaining with CUPE Local 748 resumes Dec. 12 & 13

by Nelson Daily Staff on 02 Dec 2013

CUPE workers hope the recent rally is the last time the membership needs to grab a sign as bargaining is expected to resume. — Submitted photo   CUPE workers hope the recent rally is the last time the membership needs to grab a sign as bargaining is expected to resume. — Photo submitted by Andrew Chernoff

The Kootenay Lake School Board decided to fall in line with the rest of the province, agreeing to pass a motion to submit a cost savings plan to the Ministry of Education during a special open meeting at School District No. 8 office Monday.

The vote, however, was not unanimous as two trustees decided not to support the motion.

The decision does allow the threat of a strike by CUPE Local 748 support workers to be relaxed somewhat as the two sides will now return to the bargaining table next week in an attempt to hammer out the remaining issues in this long standing labour dispute.

“The board’s decision means we can go back to bargaining,” said CUPE Local 378 president Michelle Bennett.

“We’ve been pretty much at a standstill until the board passed the cost-savings plan,” Bennett added.

“And now we’ll be able to go back to bargaining resume talking about our local issues.”

CUPE Local 748 represents all employees in the School District No. 8 except members of the Kootenay Lake Teachers’ Federation and excluded management positions.

School District No. 8 stretches from Yahk in the east to Slocan City in the west, Salmo in the south and Meadow Creek in the north.

The long labour dispute —  School Boards across the province have been without a contact since June 30, 2012 — was hoped to be in its final stage back in September after the CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ Council Bargaining Subcommittee signed a Provincial Framework Agreement with the BC Government providing a 3.5% wage increase for BC education workers.

The deal was hammered out September 18 in Vancouver.

The tentative two-year deal, retroactive to July 1, 2012, includes a 3.5-per-cent wage increase over the two years — and one percent wage increase on July 1, 2013, two percent on February 1, 2014 and 0.5 percent on May 1, 2014 — introduces a system for up-front prescription costs.

But the government did not provide any additional funds to school budgets to cover costs of the provincial agreement, instead telling boards to find the extra money in savings.

Kootenay Lake was the lone school board in the province that refused to submit a savings plan to the provincial government by the October 15 deadline, with Board Chairperson Mel Joy saying at the time “there is no way that we could rebalance our budgets without affecting services to kids.”

However, the board reconsidered Monday, paving the way for new talks to begin to try to iron out a potential deal.

But the clock is ticking on getting a new deal completed.

“We do back to bargaining December 12 & 13,” Bennett said. “But I’m a little concerned we have enough time to get it all completed because we have to have the deal ratified by December 20.”

Bennett said wage increases and seniority at the local level are the two key issues in negotiations.

Kootenay Lake School Board Chairperson Mel Joy was unavailable for comment at press time.

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