The B.C. government has reached a tentative deal with the union representing school support staff – from teaching assistants to bus drivers – even as the dispute between the employers' association and the province's teachers continues to drag on.
The agreement covers a five-year term from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2019. Details of the deal were not available Sunday, but the Ministry of Education said the wage increase offered is in line with guidelines outlined in the province's Economic Stability Mandate.
The two sides kicked off negotiations on June 3 and were able to reach a deal after "five intense and productive days of bargaining," the public administrator for the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, the government's bargaining arm, said in a statement.
"Our announcement today demonstrates that with good will, hard work and compromise, a negotiated collective agreement is achievable," said Michael Marchbank. "It's a testament to the commitment of both bargaining teams to remain focused on the objective at hand and work toward a solution."
While the agreement lays out the broader framework, the day-to-day details around non-monetary issues still need to be worked out on the local level before the agreement gets sent for a ratification vote.
On the first day of bargaining, Rob Hewitt, CUPE's K-12 sector co-ordinator, said the workers were looking for a wage increase as well as greater job security The union represents more than 27,000 support workers in the education system, including caretakers, education assistants, secretaries, IT staff, bus drivers, First Nations support workers and trades and maintenance workers.
B.C.'s Education Minister Peter Fassbender said support workers play an important role in the education system.
"It required some tough bargaining, but both sides were realistic, flexible and willing to find solutions at the table," Mr. Fassbender said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the province's public school teachers – who have been staging rotating strikes for two weeks now – will cast ballots on Monday and Tuesday to decide whether to escalate their job action to a full-fledged work stoppage.