VICTORIA, Jan. 17, 2014 /CNW/ - "The BC Public School Employers' Association is extremely disappointed that CUPE Local 947 has served notice to go out on strike on Monday," said Mike Roberts, Interim CEO. "We are working diligently with the Greater Victoria Board of Education, and are meeting with CUPE BC and the union local again today in a last-ditch effort to avert a strike. It is difficult to understand the union's reasoning for interrupting the education of students and inconveniencing parents and other employees."
The BC Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA), along with representatives from the province's 60 school districts, negotiated a two-year Provincial Framework Agreement with representatives of school district support staff unions, led by CUPE BC and including all CUPE locals, in September 2013. All of the parties recommended the Agreement to their members for ratification.
"In addition to a number of other matters, the Framework Agreement provides for salary increases of 3.5% over the two-year term of the agreement. The provisions put forward to the union are the same as those agreed to by every other CUPE Local in the province, including the other CUPE Local in the Greater Victoria school district, CUPE Local 382," said Roberts.
"The school district and CUPE Local 947 had concluded a tentative agreement consistent with the Framework Agreement recommended by both CUPE BC and BCPSEA," said Roberts. "Union members rejected that agreement and after that rejection, the Board and BCPSEA were surprised to learn that the union was making comments attributing the rejection to what is being characterized as an inferior benefits plan."
"I would like to directly address three media statements made by the union President," said Roberts. "First, he has said that the 3.5% salary increase means a reduction in their benefits. Second, he has said that the union's 'old benefit package will not cost any more than the new one,' and third, he has said their issue is 'the 3.5% wage increase that the rest of the province got that CUPE Local 947 didn't.'"
"We need to be clear," said Roberts. "The offer on the table includes the 3.5% wage increase and always has. Further, it doesn't result in a reduction in their benefits. In fact, an analysis of CUPE Local 947 members' 4,700 drug claims from January to October 2013 showed that if those claims were processed under the new plan, only 46 claims would have been affected. In all of those claims, a generic equivalent drug would have covered the claims or a third-party payer would have paid the bill. In no circumstance - in all 4,700 claims - would an employee claim not have been covered. The current drug plan in the Local 947 collective agreement only contains 50 drugs that are not covered by the BlueRx plan and all 50 of those drugs have a generic equivalent."
"It's also worth noting that with the proposed drug plan, those employees would have had a pay direct drug card," said Roberts, "and further, although the union's current benefits plan and the proposed benefits plan are cost-neutral for bargaining purposes, the new proposed benefits plan will help to control the rising costs of benefits while providing equivalent drug coverage. It's also consistent with the plan in place for teachers in the Greater Victoria school district, and is the same plan agreed to by CUPE Local 382 in the district."
Given the facts and given the misunderstanding and misapprehension of union members about the plan, representatives who negotiated the Provincial Framework, along with Pacific Blue Cross and benefits administrators Morneau Shepell, met with CUPE Local 947 earlier this week in an attempt to clarify the plan and answer any questions.
Unfortunately, CUPE Local 947 refused to engage in a discussion about the benefits plan, although they continue to state in the media that is the specific matter in dispute.
"We need to retain our focus on the needs of the students in our public schools and ensure that their education is not interrupted by a completely unnecesssary labour dispute," said Roberts.
"We hope that the union will take a step back to engage in sober second thought and recognize that the school district has a fair offer on the table. That offer is the same as the settlement covering every other CUPE employee in BC school districts, including the other CUPE Local in Victoria. CUPE Local 947 needs to come to the table today and conclude an agreement."
BCPSEA is the accredited bargaining agent for the province's 60 public boards of education. Through its bylaws, BCPSEA delegates the authority to negotiate support staff agreements to the local board of education. BCPSEA works with school districts to coordinate bargaining matters and locally negotiated collective agreements must be ratified by the BCPSEA Board.
SOURCE: British Columbia Public School Employers' Association
For further information:
Mike Roberts, Interim CEO
Cell: 604 562 0045