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March 15, 2000, VictoriaAccord talks that began as a key to ending a two-day strike by CUPE school support workers in Burnaby and Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows came to an inevitable crash today as the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) and the majority of school districts in the province continued their game of ping pong over who is responsible for making labour relations decisions in BCs public school sector.

Gary Johnson, CUPE national representative and bargaining co-ordinator in this round of school bargaining said, “For all intents and purposes these last five days of intensive bargaining have been a colossal waste of time and resources. Every single proposal put on the table to resolve issues common to CUPE locals was met with mixed messages and the cold, steely attitude of employer intransigence.”

“While re-enforcing BCPSEAs role as the accredited bargaining agent for all public school employees, Hugh Finlayson, Executive Director of BCPSEA was unable to rise to the challenge of bringing BC school districts into the positive negotiating framework needed to deal with the real issues of concern to CUPE support staffissues that also affect the quality of basic services provided to students in schools all across the province.”

BCPSEA and the School Districts have passed up the opportunity to change the adversarial style of bargaining in the K-12 sector.” said Johnson.

The original accord document prepared by government negotiators on January 24, 2000 included reference to pay equity, benefits and job security.

“Pay equity appears to have the potential for being resolved,” said Johnson. “However both job security and the benefits package that CUPE members in community after community are prepared to take strike action over have been subjected to stalling and rearguard thinking by BCPSEA and the high-priced help they have imported from school districts across the province.”

“And without question,” said Johnson, “their efforts have thwarted any positive moves in this round.”

Negotiations are set to resume in various Vancouver Island locals with a view to resolving all outstanding issues, specific to local unions. “We welcome invitations by other school districts to attempt to resolve their specific issues,” said Johnson, “but few local members are holding their breath waiting for this crop of School District employers to make positive moves.

Meanwhile said Johnson, “The strike deadline of March 27 remains in effect. In fact, we expect a total of 42 locals to be in a position to strike as of that date.”

Louise Leclair, communications representative

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