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RICHMOND—More than 50 local presidents from school district locals throughout the province met in Richmond Friday to review bargaining survey results and begin to map out 2010 bargaining priorities and strategy. Guests at the CUPE B.C. K-12 Presidents’ Council meeting were Brian Trotter and Denice Baruda from the Construction, Maintenance & Allied Workers (CMAW) - our sister union in K-12 in locals in Prince George and Quesnel.

Council chair Terry Allen acknowledged the hard work of the local presidents. “We rolled up our sleeves and came away with a solid foundation for bargaining 2010. We are a dynamic group and we had informative and often passionate discussion” said Allen.

Commenting on a substantial review of bargaining priorities, CUPE K-12 sector coordinator Bill Pegler said that members need to see addressed in the upcoming round of bargaining. These include key issues of wages and benefits, job security, education and training, and recognition and respect for education assistants, as well as health and safety language, confronting violence and ensuring that locals have the tools to keep workplaces safe and harassment-free.

National research representative John Malcolmson kicked off the day with a presentation on education finance. Malcolmson outlined the impact of funding shortfalls related to things like increased medical services premiums and costs for new carbon reduction requirements, as well as government cuts to programs like the Annual Facilities Grant.

The meeting heard briefly from BC Regional Director Robin Jones about the provincial bargaining context and from Strong Communities Local Government Liaison Heather Inglis on the fight for free collective bargaining for paramedics and all public sector workers.

This was the second in-person meeting since the founding of the presidents’ council in September 2009. The council includes locals representing CUPE’s 26,000-member K-12 sector and will continue to take a leadership role in support of fair collective agreements for K-12 workers in a difficult bargaining climate.