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CUPE backs seven candidates for SD43 trustee positions

China trips, trustee pay among union's concerns for School District 43 board elections
School trustee
CUPE branch 561 has endorsed seven candidates for school trustee in School District 43.

The union representing school support workers plans to wade into the upcoming election for school trustees, endorsing some candidates and not others, and raising issues such as trips to China and trustee pay, The Tri-City News has learned.

This week CUPE 561 released a list of candidates for school board that will be endorsed during the upcoming election campaign and only two incumbents are getting union backing.

Dave Ginter, 561 president, said his union will be supporting Port Moody candidates and incumbents Lisa Park and Keith Watkins because they only went to China once, voted against union pension cuts and sought motions for more daycare in schools.

“Those are important issues,” Ginter told The Tri-City News.

He also said that Coquitlam incumbents Carol Cahoon, Barb Hobson, Chuck Dennison and Port Coquitlam candidate Michael Thomas did not seek the union’s endorsement.

Supported candidates for the Oct. 20 election are Shari O’Neill, Craig Woods and Jennifer Blatherwick in Coquitlam, and Bruce Richardson and Christine Pollock in Port Coquitlam.
Ginter said he is also concerned about trustee pay, which is the highest in the province.

Trustee pay was an issue in the 2014 election, but no changes were made to the process in which pay is automatically increased in January based on the average pay of Tri-City councillors. After a pay increase in 2016, trustees make $42,535 as a base rate (10% more for chair and 5% more for vice-chair), according to the most recent financial information.

Ginter is also concerned about trustees taking trips to China to promote the international education program, calling the trips a form of "paid vacation" paid for by the Chinese government through the Confucius Institute.

The district maintains the trips are important for the International Education program that generates funds for SD43 coffers and promotes global awareness and understanding among resident students.