From left to right, Educational Assistants Ute Perry, Sylvia Sundby, Christine Gillies, and Maria, Mangiola on the picket line for CUPE Local 441 as talks break off between the school district and the union on Nov. 6, 2019. (Sophie Heizer/News Staff)

‘No option’ to fix pay parity at local bargaining table: SD63 superintendent

Superintendent Dave Eberwein said there is no more provincial funding to negotiate with

Job action in School District 63 (SD63) continues on Thursday after negotiations broke down between CUPE Local 441 members and SD63 late Tuesday night. SD63 Superintendent Dave Eberwein said Thursday morning the most frustrating part is the “campaign of misinformation” that there is more provincial money available to bargain with.

READ MORE: Talks break off between CUPE, SD63 as strike heads toward the end of day eight

“The provincial government won’t be putting any more money in the pot,” Eberwein said. “They have been very clear about that.” He said CUPE Local 441 President Dean Coates is giving “false hope” to union members.

Eberwein said the provincial government will not reopen the Provincial Framework Agreement under which the school districts, unions and employees negotiate pay and benefits just for Saanich because it would trigger what’s called a “me too” clause that means all other school districts in B.C. are entitled to have their frameworks reopened for negotiation.

“The only way this is going to be resolved is if CUPE ends the strike, comes back to the table and negotiates within the framework,” Eberwein said. CUPE Local 441 President Dean Coates said the current deal on the table is simply not good enough for CUPE members, parents or students. “It would still not address the actual problem which is retention and recruitment,” Coates said. “We would still have a mass exodus.”

Coates said CUPE Local 441 is asking for the provincial government to step in, given all they need to achieve pay parity for SD63 is $1-3 million, and that’s “peanuts” in a provincial budget. But Eberwein said there is “no option” to fix the pay parity issue at the local bargaining table.

Eberwein said there are two pools of money in play: the two per cent wage increases each year for three years plus benefits under the Provincial Framework Agreement, and money from the provincial Job Evaluation Committee, which is currently assessing pay and other disparities between similar jobs across the province.

READ MORE: Pay disparity at heart of Saanich schools strike has 45-year-old roots

Eberwein said the District has shuffled things around within its salary and benefits budget to increase wages more than two per cent each year for SD63 support workers, and that’s all they have the power to do. Coates said local CUPE members don’t think they should have to fund their own wage increases.

Eberwein said if funding SD63 pay parity with other local districts came from the Job Evaluation Committee, all other districts in B.C. could go to labour relations board and say the B.C. Public Shool Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) has negotiated in bad faith. “That is never going to happen,” Eberwein said.

There is provincial money in the Job Evaluation Committee project that will flow to Saanich to address the issue of pay parity, but it will take some time as it’s a lengthy and complicated process that looks at all provincial school districts.

Coates said everyone admits there’s a problem, everyone admits there’s a solution, but the provincial government will not fix it. “The District and the provincial government cannot profess to have a commitment to inclusive education if they won’t fund it,” Coates said.

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com


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