A tentative agreement between the province and B.C.'s school support workers will cost the cash-strapped Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district millions of dollars.
The deal, signed Wednesday, could cost up to $550,000 in the 2013-14 school year in extra wages and benefits, and approximately $1.1 million annually from then on, according to secretary-treasurer Phil Turin.
Turin said the funding is earmarked to come from savings in each of the province's 60 public school districts, and the province has added a directive that the money not come from core services.
The district has had to cut approximately $20 million from its annual budgets since 2001 due to declining enrolment and government cutbacks that have resulted in the loss of dozens of teachers, support workers and programs.
The tentative agreement with CUPE workers, which would avert a possible strike early in the current school year, calls for wage increases of 3.5 per cent over the next two years for 27,000 education workers.
Turin said it's "too early" at this stage to determine where the cost savings will come from to pay for the tentative agreement with the approximately 535 full-time equivalent CUPE support workers in the district, who include custodians, clerical and maintenance staff as well as educational assistants.
Rob Zver, president of CUPE Local 606 which represents local support workers, said he has concerns around the district's ability to pay for the contract.
He said while a tentative agreement has been reached provincially, there are also a number of important issues that must be resolved before a final agreement can be reached.
Contract talks between the province and the B.C. Teachers' Federation, which represents the province's teachers whose contract expired at the end of June, are still ongoing.
Any financial implications of a new teachers' contract to Nanaimo-Ladysmith are still unknown.
"We are expecting some cost savings from the district's new facilities plan, even though the main intent of the plan is to improve educational outcomes, so we'll have to see if we can find some savings in there that could be used toward the new CUPE contract," Turin said.
"It's still early so we'll have to see exactly where the money will come from."
The agreement is subject to negotiations in individual districts, as well as ratification by union members and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association.
Salaries and benefits for CUPE workers in Nanaimo-Ladysmith account for approximately 29 per cent of the district's $125-million annual budget.
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