Fund wage increases for school support workers, demand Surrey trustees

Fund wage increases for school support workers, demand Surrey trustees

There's no more savings to be found in cash-strapped district, board tells province.

Surrey school support workers should get a raise, say Surrey trustees, but any increase needs to be funded by the provincial government.

The stance was voiced by the Surrey Board of Education Thursday, spurred by a motion from Trustee Terry Allen.

He was responding to the province’s request last month that B.C. districts fund wage increases through the Cooperative Gains Mandate – which provides for “modest” public sector raises “made possible by productivity increases within existing budgets,” according to the Ministry of Finance website.

In December, Minister of Education Don McRae told school districts to work on a “savings plan” to fund wage increases – a directive that enraged financially tight school districts, and for which the minister subsequently apologized.

Still, Allen urged his fellow trustees to take a stand in light of years of looming budget shortfalls.

“I’m majorly concerned,” Allen said. “This school district is facing numerous increases in costs. To ask the school district to find places to cut … is absolutely ridiculous.”

He said a zero-wage increase for support workers, which include a range of positions, including clerical, custodial, maintenance, and childcare workers, is “not acceptable.”

His fellow trustees agreed, resolving write to the minister voicing Surrey’s support for fully funded wage increases to support staff.

“I was getting worried that we were the only district that hadn’t taken a position on this,” said Trustee Laurae McNally.

In a letter to The Leader earlier this month, Janice Meehan, president of CUPE 728, said support workers in Surrey are well aware of the effects of an underfunded school system.

“While we have made some gains in recognizing the unpaid work done by our Education Assistants we are falling behind in other areas,” she said. “… our members are being stretched to do more with less time.”