There will be no strike by Langley School District support workers this fall, but the district still has to come up with a plan to pay for the new contract.
On Wednesday night, CUPE BC signed a tentative deal with the BC Public School Employers' Association. If ratified by union members, it will give workers a 3.5 per cent wage increase over the two years of the contract.
However, the cost of the increase has to come out of existing district budgets, without any additional provincial funding.
"In my view, the [provincial] government should be funding it," said Langley school board chair Wendy Johnson.
The deal was negotiated under what the province has dubbed the "co-operative gains" mandate, in which workers salaries may go up, but the net budget can't increase.
The Langley district has just finished paying off a staggering $13.75 million deficit in June, caused by what the district had called "accounting errors."
However, it still doesn't have a lot of money left over.
"There's very little flexibility in anybody's budget," said Johnson.
That worries Richard Frost, president of CUPE 1851, one of the two locals in Langley.
Frost was one of the minority of CUPE presidents who voted against the tentative deal.
The fact that there's no new money could eventually mean layoffs for the staff, whether now or in the future.
"It could, in fact, affect quite a few CUPE members down the road," Frost said.
The district's secretary treasurer, David Green, is working on a plan to find the savings. No cuts are allowed to come from any services to students, the province has said.
Frost said he was pleased that Green has apparently set aside some money in the budget already for the settlement.
The province will also have to vet the district's plan for the cost cuts.
While the provincial-level negotiations over CUPE's wages are likely over, local issues will still be negotiated through the fall, said Johnson.
CUPE has been in a legal strike position for some time, and with teachers' unions saying they would not cross picket lines, a strike could have shut down public schools across the province.
@ Copyright 2013