COQUITLAM – Early Childhood Educators (ECE) at two Strong Start program sites in Coquitlam have dramatically improved child care services by joining CUPE Local 561. In addition to a wage rate increase to over $22 an hour, an increase in hours of work from 15 to 20 hours, and the addition of comprehensive health benefits, the local union has successfully secured three new casual fill-in positions.
“Our hope is that Early Childhood Educators that run this new program in other districts also join the union and negotiate the best possible wage and working conditions for these workers,” says Dave Ginter, CUPE 561 President. “They work for the same employer as our members, have the same community of interest, they should be part of CUPE.”
The two ECE involved run the Strong Start program at Rainbow Preschool at Riverview Elementary and Futurekids Daycare Centre at Roy Stibbs Elementary. They guide and assist parents and caregivers that come to the drop-in program with their children for some stimulating and educational playtime.
Ginter recounts that he only learned of these new positions when he was looking in the local newspaper and noticed a job ad for work within his school district. He then filed a grievance claiming it was bargaining unit work.
“The grievance was resolved,” says Ginter. “The jobs became CUPE jobs and the members involved were very pleased – they were initiated into the union last Saturday.”
“But it has to be done right – the job must be run through the job evaluation process and that is how we managed to negotiate the well-deserved wage, work and benefit improvements,” says Ginter.
Through the job evaluation process, the skill, years of experience and qualifications are taken into account in determining remuneration levels.
Through their new found membership in CUPE 561, the union was able to increase the ECE daily hours of work from 3 hours to 4 hours, enabling the ECE to qualify for heath benefits (20 hour minimum). They also negotiated the three extra casual positions as required back-up in the case that they were sick, making for a more secure and reliable service for those seeking child care services through the Strong Start program.
Strong Start is a new provincial program that provides $1.4 million to fund centres which provide a free drop-in program for parents or caregivers and their children lead by qualified ECE.
The new centres will be located in Alberni, Burnaby, Central Okanagan, Chilliwack, Comox Valley, Kamloops/Thompson, Mission, Okanagan Similkameen, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Quesnel, Revelstoke, Surrey and Vancouver School Districts. CUPE represents K-12 workers in all of these school districts except for Prince Rupert and Quesnel.