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CUPE Local 748 workers hold rallies to voice concerns over lack of bargaining progress

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
November 28th, 2013

CUPE Local 748 workers voted to reaffirm their strike mandate after failing to come to an agreement with the employer, Kootenay Lake School District No. 8.

The vote, 100 percent in favour of job action, happened during the union meeting this past weekend.

“The major stumbling block has been the School Board’s decision to not pass a savings plan impacting CUPE jobsin order to fund the long overdue wage adjustment education workers deserve,” said Michelle Bennett, President of CUPE Local 748 in a prepared statement.

“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.”

To express their disappointment with the employer, CUPE Local 748 is staging two rallies — Wednesday in Creston at Prince Charles Secondary School and Thursday in front of the Hume Elementary on Nelson Avenue.

Thursday’s rally on Nelson Avenue is from 3-4 p.m.

“The District and Local 748 are still bargaining,” said Kootenay Lake Superintendent Jeff Jones, adding the Board of Education will be meeting in a Special Open Board Meeting on Monday December 2 to determine next steps.

“It is our hope that we will reach a negotiated settlement.”

This long labour dispute was hoped to be in its final stage 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 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.

“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,” Bennett explained.

“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,” Bennett adds.

“After a settlement is achieved, we hope to work with the Board, parents, teachers and the community in a sustained campaign to pressure the BC government to adequately support BC students.”

Bennett, stopping short of saying a strike is in the near future, said 21 CUPE Locals have ratified collective agreements settled with their respective School Districts.

There are 17 Locals that have reached a settlement and are scheduling ratification votes.

CUPE 748 is one of 19 locals, which have yet to finalize a settlement.

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