CUPE and Teacher negotiations

Hi Folks,

Happy New Year!! I hope everyone enjoyed a peaceful summer.

And now: onwards and upwards!

I thought I would try and get a quick update out about CUPE and Teacher negotiations. There is much in the media of late.

I will try and get a more complete update out later this week.

I have tried to update our e-mail lists. Many of the e-mail addresses we have are SD85 e-mail addresses. This is probably just fine, although technically the district does have access to all e-mail communications using their SD address. This has never been an issue. However, if you do have a non SD address you use on a regular basis, and you would be willing to use it for VINTA communications, could you please forward it. I understand there have been some issues with folks new to the north island getting internet access.


The short form of this update is: it looked as if there was the potential for CUPE job action in early September. This is not currently the case and there are some negotiating sessions between CUPE and the government scheduled this week.

CUPE has been without a contract for a year. It has also been 4 years since they have seen any salary increase. They held a strike vote last June, locally and provincially. The strike vote had overwhelming support and CUPE has been in a legal strike position since the end of June. There were local negotiations between our School Board and CUPE that were conducted over much of last year. It is my understanding those negotiations have progressed as far as possible, and there are no further local negotiations.

The larger issues such as salary and benefits were being negotiated provincially. The government believed the negotiations with CUPE came under the government’s unfortunately named, “cooperative gains mandate”, and anything they achieved would have to come from some other area of the contracts. Understandably, CUPE did not share this opinion.

That is where negotiations stalled. Talks broke off on August 9th, and there were no negotiation sessions scheduled. It seemed there was a strong potential for job action as early as the second week of September.

CUPE has always respected our picket lines (even when we were on a so-called illegal strike), and the Federation made it clear we would support CUPE and respect picket lines.

Toward the end of August, the government decided to interpret “cooperative gains” as meaning they would pass along the cost of any settlement to school districts without increasing the funding. Districts were being asked if they could fund an additional percentage to CUPE payrolls. CUPE is asking for 2% for each year of the contract – last year and this year. The understanding, according to the government, is the increase cannot affect services to students.

School district responses have been varied. Some have said “No, not in this life time”, while others have quietly acquiesced. The Ministry has suggested they would be willing to ‘help’ districts to find the savings to fund a possible CUPE salary increase.

At this point, the government seems more willing to discuss potential salary increases with CUPE as it will not result in any funding increase to school district. As such, bargaining with CUPE will resume on September 4th.

There is, of course no way to predict where these negotiations will go. However the potential for CUPE job action seems to be postponed for the time being.

There will be more information as it becomes available. In the mean time please talk to your CUPE colleagues. Their struggle with this government is every bit a reflection of our struggle.

And, speaking of which….


Oh, that’s right, there aren’t any.

If you cast your mind to the date, May 14th, 2013. Events on that day did not transpire as many predicted they would.

And, negotiations with the government have not been all that productive – think, 10 year deal!!??

Since the election the government has moved to attempt to negotiate directly with teachers. The BCPSEA negotiating team was dismissed at the beginning of the summer, and the government appointed a new team. In addition, the government changed their objectives part way through negotiations – again, think, 10 year deal.

At the end of June we did conduct a very quick vote of confidence of the BCTF bargaining objectives. This was mostly in response to the government changing mandate part way through bargaining.

Since that time very little has happened, other than government posturing in the media about, (you guessed it) a 10 year deal. The minister of education has said, unlike current CUPE negotiations, the government would fund any teacher settlement. On the face of it this is quite positive, until one asks, ‘ how much does it cost to fund zero?’

There were no negotiations scheduled for the summer. We will probably not return to the table until mid October. There is a court hearing about the remedies the government has put in place to satisfy the court ruling they contravened our charter rights. The remedies are largely contained in Bill 22. The government maintains this addresses the court ruling, and we, respectfully, disagree. This hearing is scheduled for 9 days at the end of September. The court’s ruling with respect to this could have an impact on our negotiations.

I hope to get out to visit all schools in the next little while.

I also hope everyone has a good start to the year.

See you soon.


Fred Robertson
Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association