Legal News

Support staff strikes backgrounder

Given recent developments, a number of facts about the structure and history of collective bargaining by support staff in the public school sector have been overlooked. We summarize them here as necessary background to understanding the current dispute.

  • School board support staff have been unionized on a district by district basis for decades. Most are now represented by one or another local of CUPE, but staff in some districts are represented by other unions or a combination of two or more unions.
  • With few exceptions, different CUPE locals represent the staff in each district.
  • In BC, only the locals hold certifications, CUPE itself is not certified for any bargaining units. At law, each CUPE local is a separate union.
  • For decades, each local has negotiated its own collective agreement with its own school board (except for the Okanagan where several school boards have for decades negotiated a single collective agreement for their support staff employees, all of whom are in one CUPE local).
  • The various CUPE support staff collective agreements vary widely in their terms.
  • The BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) was was constituted under the Public Sector Employers Act and was accredited as the bargaining agent for school boards under the Public Education Labour Relations Act.
  • Under its constitution and bylaws, BCPSEA must delegate support staff collective bargaining to the individual school boards or groups of school boards, subject to ratification by BCPSEA.
  • Ratification by BCPSEA depends on compliance of the tentative agreement with public sector compensation guidelines issued by the Public Sector Employers Council under the Public Sector Employers Act.
  • The provincial government approved BCPSEA’s constitution and bylaws including this delegation of bargaining authority. Government approval was required under the Public Sector Employers Act.
  • From 1994 onward, many rounds of school board support staff collective agreements were negotiated individually between school boards and CUPE locals subject to BCPSEA ratification.
  • Last year, CUPE proposed that the parties voluntarily enter into a provincial bargaining structure. In April of 1999, BCPSEA’s member school boards voted against provincial bargaining with CUPE.
    •••BCPSEA news release
  • CUPE continued to pursue provincial bargaining by legislation through the summer of 1999 without success. Government has not moved to legislate provincial bargaining as it did with teachers.
    •••CUPE K-12 SBC release (July 26 1999)