Support Staff Bargaining Questions & Answers - Nov 13, 2019

This document has been prepared by the school district to provide clarification on important contextual matters related to Support Staff bargaining.

The school district and the union had previously worked with the assistance of a mediator. Can the mediator be brought back in to work with the parties?

The district is prepared to work with the assistance of the mediator again. It is important to note that the mediator has to work within the provincial public sector bargaining mandate and in order for mediation to be successful the union would need to acknowledge that it is prepared to work within the mandate.

Is wage disparity a Saanich issue or a provincial issue?

Addressing wage disparity is an important priority for both CUPE 441 and the school district. This is also an issue that impacts many school districts across the province. Wage disparity is both a Saanich issue and a provincial issue.

The combination of circumstances in Saanich, including our close proximity to neighbouring districts with higher wages, may be unique. However, every school district is distinct. There are other school districts in the province, such as those in remote locations, where lower wages are having a far greater impact on the district’s ability to recruit and retain qualified employees. The reality is that many other school districts would say that, in comparison to Saanich, they have greater recruitment and retention challenges as a result of wage disparity.

Wage disparity is a provincial issue. For this reason, the provincial parties (BCPSEA and The K-12 Presidents’ Council and Support Staff Unions, including CUPE) have agreed (within the Provincial Framework Agreement – clause 7) to work together through a Provincial Job Evaluation (JE) Committee to evaluate and begin to address wage disparity over the life of the three-year term of the collective agreement.

The evaluation of jobs to create provincial benchmarks (reflecting variation in duties and responsibilities) is a significant undertaking, and is necessary before implementation. The Saanich School District has volunteered to be one of the first pilot districts in this Provincial Job Evaluation process (which began during the term of the last collective agreement) because of the importance of this issue for our district.

The district is addressing the issue of wage disparity to the fullest extent possible in this round of bargaining with the funding approved for local bargaining and through wage increases differentiated in relation to known wage disparity. The union’s bargaining team is proposing that wage disparity in Saanich be fully addressed in this round of local bargaining. This is not something the district is able to do in isolation of the Provincial Job Evaluation process that the provincial parties have underway.

As described above, the provincial parties have already agreed to a process to address this issue within the Provincial Framework Agreement, and K-12 support staff unions across the province are now ratifying local agreements within this framework. If an agreement is ratified by November 30th, CUPE Local 441 positions in the Saanich School District, along with all other K-12 public education unionized support staff positions in the province, will be part of this work. It is not possible for this issue to be addressed in only one school district, ahead of other districts that also have this issue.

The school district has addressed the issue of wage disparity in this round of local bargaining to the best extent possible and is committed to working through the Provincial Job Evaluation process agreed to in the Provincial Framework Agreement to further address wage disparity going forward.

What is being done provincially to address the issue of wage disparity?

While addressing wage disparity is a priority for both the union and the District, it is also a Provincial issue that impacts other support staff unions in the K-12 sector. For this reason, the Provincial parties agreed (within the Provincial Framework Agreement – clause 7) to work together through a Provincial Job Evaluation (JE) Committee to evaluate and begin to address wage disparity over the life of the three-year term of the collective agreement.

The evaluation of jobs to create provincial benchmarks is a significant undertaking, and is necessary before implementation. The Saanich School District has volunteered to be one of the first pilot districts in this process (which began during the term of the last collective agreement) because of the importance of this issue for our District.

How is the issue of wage disparity being addressed in this round of bargaining?

The District is addressing the issue of wage disparity to the fullest extent possible under the provincial bargaining mandate, through differentiated increases — in addition to the general wage increases — for all positions in the bargaining unit.

Wage disparity is also an issue that affects many school districts across the Province in addition to Saanich, and therefore requires a Provincial-level approach. Determining the degree of wage disparity is complicated by variation in job descriptions (duties and responsibilities) from district to district.  For example, while it is known that wages vary for similar positions in other school districts, it has not yet been established to what degree the job duties and responsibilities vary.

For these reasons, this issue is addressed within the Provincial Framework Agreement – clause 7 to ensure that this issue is addressed consistently and fairly throughout the Province.

When would the funding associated with the Job Evaluation Committee be available?

As outlined in the Provincial Framework Agreement – clause 7 disbursement of available funds to address wage differential for the positions falling the furthest below the wage rate established by the provincial JE process could commence as early as 2020 depending on the progress of the work.

Is the District speaking with the Ministry throughout the Strike?

Yes. There are daily conversations being held with the Ministry of Education, Public Sector Employers’ Council (PSEC) Secretariat and the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA).

The consistent understanding amongst the parties listed above is that there will be no provincial intervention in relation to the strike and the only way to resolve the dispute is for the parties to return to the bargaining table and work within the parameters of the provincial mandate.

Will the District be able to keep the ‘savings’ from the strike?

No. Any funding that is not allocated as a result of the strike to the delivery or support of public sector education will be returned to the provincial government.

Why is the Employer proposing the elimination of Article 28.07 – Legislation?

The elimination of Article 28.07 will permit the Employer to turn the funding of $251,912 associated with MSP savings into ongoing wage increases for all members, with differentiated increases applied to those positions with the greatest wage discrepancy with neighbouring districts.

Without the elimination of Article 28.07, and similar to what occurred through arbitration in 2018 when the first half of the MSP premium was reduced, any savings would be paid  to members through a one-time payout.

The elimination of Article 28.07 will permit the Employer to apply the savings on a go forward and continual basis. This proposal has enabled the Employer to provide wage increases between 0.89% and 1.78% to all support staff positions in excess of the 6% general wage increases provided under the provincial public sector bargaining mandate.

What is the provincial government public sector bargaining mandate?

The provincial government has historically established a bargaining mandate for public sector collective bargaining given its accountability to taxpayers for setting spending priorities and service levels, and for development of the provincial budget. Public sector employers, including school district employers in the K-12 public education sector, are required to negotiate a collective agreement within the prevailing public sector bargaining mandate.

What is the Provincial Framework Agreement?

The Provincial Framework Agreement (PFA) for K-12 support staff provides provincial-level agreement on compensation as well as other key sector matters, and sets the “framework” inside which local bargaining occurs. The provincial parties (BCPSEA and The K-12 Presidents’ Council and Support Staff Unions, including CUPE) endorsed the PFA in September 2018 following negotiations within the provincial public sector bargaining mandate. As the School District and CUPE 441 are parties to the PFA, the employer and union are required to bargain within the parameters set by the PFA.

Has the school district accessed all funding available under the Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate (the provincial public sector bargaining mandate)?

Yes. The Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate applies to all public sector employers with unionized employees whose collective agreements expired on or after December 31, 2018. It sets the foundation for bargaining throughout the public sector.  The Provincial Framework Agreement (PFA) was negotiated within this mandate and local bargaining occurs within this mandate.  The employer’s proposals have accessed the maximum funding available under this mandate.

It’s important to understand that the Service Improvement Allocation (SIA) under the mandate, which as referenced in the PFA is “funding to the local support staff tables for service enhancements that are beneficial to students and as otherwise consistent with the 2019 Sustainable Services Negotiating Mandate…” has been fully utilized by the District in its offer, and would provide an additional 1.53% increase to staff in eight of our Educational Assistant job families.

Why would an additional general wage increase for the Saanich School District trigger increases across the public sector?

All of the public sector agreements (including the K-12 Provincial Framework Agreement – Appendix B) contain language that would provide for an adjustment of wages in the event any other public sector employer enters into an agreement that provides for a general wage increase of more than the 6% provincial mandate. This means that a general wage increase in Saanich in excess of the 6% mandate would potentially see 330,000 public sector unionized employees receiving the same increase.

According to the Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat, a 1% increase in total compensation for all employees within the public sector would cost the province approximately $304 million dollars (Public Sector Bargaining Mandates and Agreements).

Why have I heard of other Unions being able to bargain outside of the mandate (such as the Community Subsector Collective Agreement) in Healthcare?

The parties to that agreement did not negotiate outside of the provincial mandate. A low wage redress component was negotiated INSTEAD of the Service Improvement Allocation money and was directed to a targeted group of positions, not for all employees. As noted above, the District has fully utilized the Service Improvement Allocation money in its offer, in order to provide an additional 1.53% increase to staff in eight of our Educational Assistant job families (this increase and other increases are over and above the general wage increases of 6% over the three-year term of the PFA).

Do the employer’s proposals address the priority of wage disparity?

Yes.  The employer’s proposal distributes the maximum funding available in the Provincial Framework Agreement and the collective agreement to reduce wage disparity with neighbouring school districts.

The district has proposed allocation of funding within the collective agreement related to the reduction of MSP, as well as additional funding available within the PFA, to provide wage increases for all support staff employees in excess of the general wage increase of 6% over three years within the PFA.

These overall wage increases are differentiated in relation to wage disparities to our neighbouring school districts. For example, wage increases are greatest for Education Assistants and range between 11.1% and 12.8% compounded over the life of the collective agreement.

Is the offer on the table from the employer time-sensitive?

Yes.  Certain employer proposals are time-sensitive.

Clause 17 in the Provincial Framework Agreement states: “The rights and obligations of the local parties under this Provincial Framework Agreement (PFA) are of no force or effect unless the collective agreement has been ratified by both parties no later than November 30, 2019.”

If a collective agreement is not ratified before November 30, 2019, many of the provisions available under the PFA will no longer be available to the parties in local bargaining.  These include, but are not limited to, funding for local bargaining (Clause 3); and participation in and associated funding for Provincial Job Evaluation (Clause 7).

If an agreement is not ratified before November 30, 2019, funding for one of the employer’s wage proposals will no longer be available.

Job Action -- Educational Impact (Nov 12, 2019)

Dear Parents / Guardians,

It is important to acknowledge the significant disruption this job action is causing for everyone – our students, parents/guardians, staff and the community. Our goal continues to be finding a solution that is fair to our employees and that gets us back into our schools as quickly as possible.

The intent of this letter is to discuss the potential implications for your child’s education for the remainder of the school year. While the duration of the strike remains undetermined at this time, there is some information that I can share to help alleviate some of the concerns you may have:

  • Students will not be prevented from moving to the next grade level or graduating because of the strike;
  • Once we return from the strike our priority will be on maximizing instructional time while still honouring specific school-based events that are core to a school’s culture or operations (e.g. secondary school graduation activities, elementary track day in June);
  • As with other previous workplace disruptions (e.g. snow days, power outages, previous strikes) various accommodations will be considered to teaching and assessment plans: 
    • Focussing on core curricular objectives;
    • Minimizing or eliminating activities such as optional field trips;
    • Adjusting term dates;
    • Adjusting informal reporting including parent-teacher interviews;
    • Adjusting semester dates;
    • Adjusting report card timelines.
  • Students in Grade 12 will not lose their graduation year or any necessary credits towards post-secondary applications;
  • As post-secondary Institutions rely primarily on final marks when admitting students into programs our students will receive final marks for all of their courses;
  • Secondary schools will be distributing updates to parent communities regarding assessments, secondary school transcripts, post-secondary information sessions, and any key dates for post-secondary application deadlines;
  • Changes to the total number of instructional days, length of the school days, or altering established school breaks, will likely not occur due to contractual language obligations and parent/family time commitments.

We look forward to re-engaging with your children and providing them with the outstanding learning opportunities that Saanich Schools are known for when we return to our classrooms.

Respectfully,

Dave Eberwein
Superintendent of Schools

Board Annual General Meeting Rescheduled

The Board Annual General Meeting has been rescheduled for Monday, December 2, 2019, at 7:00 pm at the Board Office, 2125 Keating Cross Road.

The Employer’s Offer – What Is Being Offered at the Bargaining Table (Nov 6 2019)

The Employer has tabled an offer applying the maximum funding available within the funding approved for local bargaining consistent with all K-12 school districts across the province.  It represents an increase in wages to all support staff above the base 6% over three years.  Our staff who have the lowest wages relative to our neighbours are being offered up to 12.8% over that same time period.  Below is a plain language document that outlines the various components of the school district’s offer to CUPE 441.

You may also find answers in our up-to-date Questions and Answers post below.

The Employer’s Proposal at a Glance (Unsigned Items Only)

Key Item: Provincial Framework Agreement

What’s on the Table:

The Provincial Framework Agreement (PFA), which was agreed to by the K-12 Presidents’ Council and Support Staff Unions (including CUPE BC), and the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), includes the following:

  • General wage increases of 2%, 2%, 2% over the three-year term of the collective agreement
  • Service Improvement Allocation money, which is money for the local table, in the amount of $96,154 annually from July 1, 2020 (applied as outlined below to Educational Assistant wage increases)
  • Provincial Job Evaluation Committee, which includes provincial funding to address wages furthest below the “provincial rate”
  • Support staff recruitment and retention enhancement
  • A “me too” clause in the event of public sector general wage increases greater than 6% over the three-year term of the collective agreement

Deadline to accept and ratify the PFA is November 30, 2019

Key Item: Wage increases differentiated in relation to wage disparity

What’s on the Table:

In addition to the general wage increases included in the PFA, the employer has proposed four additional wage increases (as outlined below). The combined wage increases by position range between 7.07% and 12.80% over the life of the collective agreement, with those positions furthest from wage parity with neighbouring school districts receiving larger increases.

The impact of these wage increases by job number is reflected in Schedule A – Wages.

Key Item: Delete Article 28.07 Legislation and utilize ongoing savings toward wages for all support staff

Note: Schedule A - Wages reflects Option #1. In the event option number 2 was selected amendments to Schedule A would be required.

What’s on the Table:

Option #1 – Removal of the language will generate ongoing funding of $251,912 per year to be applied as differentiated wage increases to all positions effective January 1, 2020.

Each position will receive an increase of either 0.89% or 1.78% in addition to the 6% general wage increases under the PFA.

Option #2 – Savings of $251,912 from the 2020 calendar year will be applied as a one-time payment using the same calculation method as was used in the disbursement of MSP funding that occurred in June 2019. The one-time payment would be made effective January 1, 2020.

Removal of the language will generate ongoing funding of $251,912 per year to be applied as differentiated wage increases to all positions effective January 1, 2021.

Each position will receive an increase of either 0.89% or 1.78% in addition to the 6% general wage increases under the PFA.

Key Item: Amend Article 18.06 Rest Breaks

What’s on the Table:

The Union agrees to withdraw the estoppel notice related to pro-rated rest periods for employees listed under Appendix A and agrees to permit the Board to continue with the existing practice.

In return, the Board will apply the associated funding allocation of $139,019.00 towards wage increases in the amount of 1.24% for all Appendix A employees effective January 1, 2020.

This increase will be in addition to the 6% general wage increases under the PFA.

Key Item: Introduce Article 27.05 Wage Banding

Note: Schedule A - Wages reflects Option #2. In the event option number 1 was selected amendments to Schedule A would be required.

What’s on the Table:

Currently, each position type has a unique wage rate. Banding will move all positions within the same band to the highest rate within that band effective January 1, 2020.

Wage increases applied will be in addition to the 6% general wage increases under the PFA.

Options – There are two banding options presented in the Employer’s proposal package. The Union may select either option. 

Key Item: Labour Market Adjustment (wage increase) for Education Assistant positions utilizing the Service Improvement Allocation (local table money) under the PFA

What’s on the Table:

The local table money under the PFA (the Service Improvement Allocation money) amounts to $96,154 of annual funding commencing July 1, 2020.

This $96,154 will be utilized to provide a 1.53% wage increase on July 1, 2020 to the following EA positions:

  • EA – Specialized Education Assistant Alternative Programs (Job 47)
  • EA – Learning Services (Job 51)
  • EA – Technology Education (Job 62)
  • EA – Intervenor (Job 71)
  • EA – Interpreter (Job 72)
  • EA – Braillist/Transcriber (Job 91)
  • EA – Complex Needs Specialized Education Assistant (Job 100)
  • EA – Employment Explorations Coordinator (Job 106)

This increase will be in addition to the 6% general wage increases under the PFA. 

Key Item: Amend Article 28.04 Extended Health Benefits (EHB)

What’s on the Table:

The parties agree to make the following changes:

  • Increase the annual deductible from $25 to $50; and
  • Increase the eligibility age from “age 70 or earlier retirement” to “retirement”; and
  • Increase the maximum lifetime benefit from $500,000 per lifetime to unlimited per lifetime; and
  • Increase the dental recall period from “every 6 months” to “every 9 months.”

Key Item: Introduce Article 25.08 Bathing Suit Allowance

What’s on the Table:

Educational Assistants who are required by the Board to regularly provide support to a student in a swimming pool pursuant to the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) will receive reimbursement of up to $100.00 upon presentation of a receipt within the school year for the purchase of a bathing suit. 

Key Item: Letter of Understanding re: Recruitment and Retention and Labour-Management Committee

What’s on the Table:

The parties will establish a Recruitment and Retention Working Group that will meet following regularly scheduled labour–management meetings.

The working group will identify and review potential barriers in the recruitment process and provide recommendations to the Board for process improvements that may be related to the inability to recruit support staff.

The frequency of labour–management meetings between the parties will be increased from three times per year to six times per year for the life of the collective agreement. 

Key Item: Labour Board – Relationship Enhancement Program

What’s on the Table:

Representatives of the parties agree to jointly undertake the Relationship Enhancement Program (REP), which is a program offered through the Labour Relations Board designed to assist employers and unions in establishing and maintaining a productive and positive relationship. 

Ready, Set, Learn Open House

School District 63 is pleased to invite you to attend a "Ready, Set, Learn" Open House for parents and preschoolers (3 years and up) at Brentwood, Cordova Bay, Deep Cove, Keating, ḰELSET, Lochside, Prospect Lake and Sidney Elementary schools on Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m.

Ready, Set, Learn Poster

Back to School

Saanich Schools are ready to welcome over 7200 students into our classrooms again this year.  In Saanich, our spirit of innovation and inclusion means we continue to offer new courses, programs and learning opportunities for our students making our district a truly special place for students.