Creston members of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 748 rallied on Canyon Street on Wednesday afternoon, after 100 per cent voted on the weekend in favour of job action.
The result stemmed from the School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) board’s inability to find funds for Ministry of Education-mandated CUPE wage increases without impacting students.
“The major stumbling block has been the school board’s decision to reject a savings plan impacting jobs, in order to fund the long overdue wage adjustment education workers deserve,” said CUPE Local 748 president Michelle Bennett in a press release. “We hope job action is not required, but we owe it to our students, parents and our communities to be honest and transparent by informing them that there is a real possibility if a settlement with the employer cannot be reached.”
On Sept. 18, the CUPE BC K-12 Presidents’ council bargaining subcommittee signed a provincial framework agreement with the B.C. Government providing a 3.5-per cent wage increase for B.C. education workers. Education Minister Peter Fassbender required local education boards to submit a cost savings plan to fund the agreement.
SD8 is the only board to not submit a plan to pay for the wage adjustment, as discussed at the Nov. 19 board meeting.
“For [the Ministry of Education] to say we can’t cut services to pay for an increase is a bit of a joke,” said acting chair Rebecca Huscroft, a Creston trustee, at the Nov. 19 meeting. “We are the only district in the province advocating right now and we understand how this must look to you guys.”
“I am proud of the trustees of the Kootenay Lake School Board for rejecting the presented savings plan because they understand it would affect core services for students,” said Bennett. “However, our school district does need to approve a plan — one that does not have an adverse affect on students. While Local 748 supports the board in calling for much needed funding, our first priority is a fair collective agreement. After a settlement is achieved, we hope to work with the board, parents, teachers and the community in a sustained campaign to pressure the B.C. government to adequately support B.C. students.”
CUPE members will vote on settlements. The deadline for ratification of agreements is Dec. 20.
—With files from Nelson Star