CUPE deal to bring more cuts to Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District will have to cut approximately one million over the next to years

In April, some trustees were literally in tears as they passed a budget that demanded $5.7 million in cuts.

Now they will have to cut approximately $1 million more over the next two years, following the province’s negotiations with CUPE employees in the school district, and a wage increase of 3.5 per cent over two years.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents teachers aides, custodians, trades people and other workers in school districts across the province. CUPE employees are the second-largest employee group in the district, after teachers.

“Definitely, this is going to create a cost pressure for all boards, not just ours,” said secretary treasurer Flavia Coughlan.

The union has negotiated a framework agreement with the B.C. Public Schools Employers’ Association, which represents the province.

CUPE members will receive one per cent retroactive July 1, two per cent on Feb. 1, 2014 and 0.5 per cent on May 1, 2014. The agreement expires on June 30, 2014.

Under a provincial government policy known as the Cooperative Gains Mandate, schools boards were told they would have to come up with the additional wages within existing budgets, and no new funds will be coming from the province.

Trustee Ken Clarkson, the local board’s representative on the B.C. School Trustees Association, noted that the opposition to the Cooperative Gains Mandate was virtually unanimous.

“Practically every board sent a rebuttal,” he said. “It was the most unified I’ve ever seen the BCSTA.”

While exact numbers aren’t known yet, Clarkson said the local impact appears to be approximately $1 million.

“Obviously, it’s got to come from cuts,” he said, adding that there was no obvious area where the budget could be trimmed. “We’ll have to see. The senior team will come up with a plan.

“We’ve got to do it again, and we’ve got to do it even deeper.”

He said the steady loss of students is already causing budget pressures in Maple Ridge, where it appears enrolment is down approximately 163 students this year.

“If you’re in a district with declining enrolment, it’s a double whammy,” said Clarkson.

The board previously faced a budget shortfall of $5.66 million. That was brought about by several factors, including a projected decline in student enrollment of 197.5 full-time equivalents. That caused a drop of $1.17 million in government per-pupil funding.

There were 35 staff positions lost, in various capacities, across the district in the $130 million budget for 2013-2014. Class sizes rose, the board spent $1.5 million it had in reserves and there were cuts to custodians, support services and helping teachers.

The deadline to complete the CUPE deal through local bargaining is Dec. 20. Bargaining will begin next month.

“Definitely, we have already had a challenging year,” said Coughlan.

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