No strike yet

School support staff continue contract negotiations with the provincial government this week

School support staff that issued a strike mandate earlier this year are sitting tight for now.

CUPE BC is presently negotiating a new contract for its 27,000 members with the B.C. government.

The negotiations come after the education workers passed a strike vote in April.

CUPE has said that this week’s bargaining dates are crucial in achieving what it considers a fair and reasonable contract settlement. If negotiations fall apart, CUPE BC president Mark Hancock said in a statement last week, CUPE members will issue a full-scale province-wide strike.

“Our members have been patient, and our negotiators have been patient,” said Hancock. “And no one knows the potential impact of job action on parents and students better than our members in the K-12 sector. But the provincial government’s constant and consistent demands that our members actually receive less in a new contract are out of line with what’s happened at other provincial negotiating tables.”

In Southeast Kootenay School District 5, the local CUPE 4165 represents more than 400 workers, such as education assistants, clerical staff, trades, aboriginal workers, youth and family workers, custodians and bus drivers.

But CUPE 4165 president Sue Krause said there is no indication at this point that a strike will be called.

“Right now, at this moment in time, we are still sitting at the table. We are still negotiating, no one has walked away, no one has thrown their hands up in the air,” she told the Townsman Tuesday.

“We are still at the negotiation table in Vancouver. As long as we are still passing packages back and forth and still sitting there in a civil matter and talking to each other, there’s nothing right now.”

Education workers are seeking a pay increase, their first since 2009, and an improved benefits package.

The provincial government has said that wage increases would have to come out of school districts’ operating budgets.