Education minister Peter Fassbender dodged questions Wednesday about whether the ministry would prohibit teachers from respecting picket lines if support workers strike.
Bargaining between the province and CUPE 15, which represents education workers, including educational assistants, clerical staff, trades and custodians, resume Sept. 4.
“I’m very optimistic as the negotiators get back at the table on the fourth, fifth and sixth of September that they’re going to do their job … I believe we can find a solution, that is my hope, and they are going to work together to get there,” Fassbender said during a back-to-school media teleconference Wednesday afternoon. “I’m not going to presume anything at this stage. I want to see a school year without any disruption, that’s our goal, and I’ve heard CUPE say that’s their goal as well.”
Fassbender also said he believes pieces are in place to achieve a 10-year contract with teachers.
The Vancouver School Board submitted a restoration budget to the province earlier this year that contends the district would need more than $40 million to restore the same level of service that it offered students a decade ago.
Fassbender said the province is investing more money in education while operating in fiscally challenging times.
“The reason that we’ve worked so hard on a strong economic plan for the future is that we can ensure our economy stays strong, that we continue to promote industrial development, things like LNG [liquefied natural gas], so that we can start to see balanced budgets and future revenue pay off our debt,” Fassbender said. “And then we can start to invest more dollars in some of the key areas, of which healthcare, education, social services are a key.”
The school board has had to cover salary increases negotiated in collective bargaining. Fassbender said the government continues to operate with its Cooperative Gains mandate for public sector employees, meaning the province won’t provide additional money for such increases.
Fassbender said school boards will develop savings plans to provide for pay increases.
Patti Bacchus, chair of the Vancouver School Board, told the Courier in an email that the district does not have such a savings plan.
“This will be extremely difficult, especially in the context of multiple years of funding shortfalls,” she said.
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