Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

CUPE, BCTF, and employer disagree over support worker deal

The BC Teachers' Federation says it's "encouraged" by the deal reached between school support workers and the government, saying there were no concessions, a net-zero mandate was not met, and that allowances were made for local and provincial bargaining.

But one of the major support workers unions and the government bargaining body don't agree--with the teachers' union, or each other.

In a press release issued by the teachers' union today, President Susan Lambert says the details of the deal reached between 13 unions--including CUPE, which represents 90 per cent of support workers--and the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA), show a deal between teachers and government can be reached.

"The employer dropped its concession demands, put money on the table, and addressed CUPE concerns about their bargaining structures," she said in the release.

"Nurses, anesthesiologists, police, firefighters, and now CUPE have all broken the net-zero mandate."

But both the BCPSEA and CUPE say the agreement is net-zero because there was no increase in wages or benefits for workers.

Hugh Finlayson, BCPSEA's chief executive officer, says the $7.5 million per year going towards classroom assistants is coming out of the ministry of education's previously announced $165 million in response to Bill 28--a proposal the teachers rejected in October.

"That's not a wage increase, that's not a benefit increase, that's policy money out of the policy money that was spoken of in October," he says, adding assistants will get $7.5 million this year and the year after.

Another $750,000 has been earmarked for policy discussions "of mutual interests to the unions and to the ministry and to the employer."

But while Finlayson denies that government asked support workers to make concessions, CUPE spokesperson Bill Pegler says otherwise.

"They were looking for changes to our layoff language, they were looking for more control over professional development, they were looking for technological change language to be removed from our collective agreements, they were looking for some changes to benefits plans, these types of things," he told The Tyee.

"But as time wore on, the employer lifted their concessions off the table and that was what allowed us to get towards a deal."

Lambert also argues government allowed CUPE to bargain locally and provincially, something the BCTF have been asking for since the government moved bargaining provincially in 2002.

"CUPE’s bargaining structures were altered to meet their needs. I don’t understand why the same could not be done to allow teachers to negotiate local solutions to problems or challenges in local school districts," she says in the release.

As Finlayson sees it, CUPE would prefer to have provincial bargaining, and BCPSEA is happy to oblige.

"(CUPE) would rather have province-wide bargaining, and what we have been able to come to is this framework process, which sets out the structure of bargaining, those broad issues are dealt with on a framework basis, that framework is then turned back to the individual school boards and individual support staff locals, and they bargain their collective agreement," he says.

Pegler says CUPE only wants provincial bargaining for some aspects of agreements, like wages and funding for education assistance, and prefers local bargaining in all other aspects.

Either way, local unions must now finish and sign their agreements by the end of February, only to regroup on June 30th when this contract expires.

As for why CUPE has reached an agreement with BCPSEA--after bargaining with government for almost a year longer than the teachers have--while the BCTF have not, Pegler won't comment on particular tables, but says concessions play a role.

"Members don't want to go backwards, they don't want to see the system go backwards overall. So for any union at the bargaining table, the hardest thing is the concessions that are at the table. When the concessions are out of the way, it makes it a lot easier to move forward," he says.

Katie Hyslop reports on youth and education issues for The Tyee.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus