March 31st has a special meaning for the thousands of CUPE members in B.C. who have been bargaining under a tight timeline imposed by the provincial government. On November 30, 2005 B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor announced a negotiating framework for public sector bargaining in B.C.
The framework was designed to encourage unions to sign longer-term collective agreements and conclude those agreements before the government’s fiscal year-end of March 31, 2006. The carrot for settling by March 31st was a share of a one billion dollar early signing incentive. This set the stage for what has been an intense round of public sector bargaining.
The provincial bargaining framework affects close to two-thirds of CUPE members in the province in addition to CUPE’s B.C. health services division, the Hospital Employees Union (HEU).
HEU led the way with a March 15th settlement for its 38,000 members who work in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The same day, the Paramedical Professional Bargaining Association (PPBA) announced a four-year settlement. CUPE represents 600 workers in six locals in the PPBA.
On March 25th, the Health Services and Support Community Association of Bargaining Agents (HSSCBA) reached a tentative four-year agreement. CUPE represents 520 workers in four locals and HEU represents about 1500 workers in the sector.
Late in the evening of March 30th, CUPE’s largest sector in this round of bargaining finalized a tentative agreement with six university employers. It took twenty-five days of intense mediation. CUPE represents 10,000 members in ten locals at six universities.
CUPE’s Social Services locals continue to engage in bargaining up to the deadline. The 13-union association includes 2000 CUPE members and 1200 HEU members.
The Colleges and Institutes Support Staff Bargaining Association (CISSBA) is set to resume bargaining shortly to meet a June 30th deadline. CUPE represents 2300 members at seven institutions. Of the seven, three whose agreements expire on March 31st have already reached tentative agreements.
Finally, CUPE’s 23,000 K to 12 workers have just started bargaining and are also working to a June 30th deadline. Both K to 12 and college locals who have not yet settled will be eligible for early incentive signing bonuses if agreements are concluded by June 30th.