- BC Games
Deal in the works for CUPE school workers?
The president of the union local representing School District 43 support staff predicts a settlement as early as next week, averting a full-scale walkout.
But a new deal could put a dent in School District 43's already tight budget.
Dave Ginter of CUPE Local 561, said the province is likely to offer CUPE workers the same 2% it has given other public sector workers and was the reason negotiators called union leaders to the table next week.
"It looks like they're close to a wage settlement but it does look like they'll put that payment on the school board," Ginter said.
He said the district will likely have to shell out an extra $1.5 million to $2 million in wages for what is likely be a two-year agreement.
That will be a difficult pill for SD43 to swallow after the board of education cut $12.1 million — and 142 jobs, the bulk of them teachers, special education assistants and support workers — to balance this year's budget.
Board chair Melissa Hyndes has said the district can't afford to fund the CUPE increases and shouldn't be responsible for a wage increase negotiated by the province (see related story).
Meanwhile, the district and CUPE will return to the negotiating table to bargain local, non-wage issues. Ginter said both sides have put big issues on the table and if talks come to loggerheads, job action wouldn't affect teachers or students even though the union has an 89% strike mandate from its members.
Still, the board office and maintenance yard could be affected, he said.
Finances will be top of mind in other areas, as well, as school gets underway Tuesday.
The district is waiting to hear the results of a forensic audit, expected later this fall, that may suggest where its finances went wrong last year. A report will be made public, although the full contents won't be shared, Hyndes said.
And while the district grapples with its current funding situation, which will become clearer Sept. 30 when enrollment figures are in and the district knows how much provincial funding to expect, last year's $8.2-million deficit still has to be dealt with.
"I haven't seen the audit," Hyndes said, "but indications are it's very close" to what was projected during budget deliberations last year.
Also on the district's to-do list is hiring a secretary-treasurer to handle the finances after Rick Humpreys left last December by mutual agreement with the board after receiving $148,495 in severance.
Hyndes said interviews with potential candidates will be taking place soon and a new secretary-treasurer will be hired in the next few months.