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Burnaby district seeks cuts to cover possible CUPE wage hikes
Burnaby school district doesn't know how much it needs but staff are already looking at potential budget cuts to cover possible wage hikes for its Canadian Union of Public Employees workers.
School board chair Baljinder Narang confirmed the board met on Thursday and directed staff to start figuring out where that money could come from.
Last week, Education Minister Peter Fassbender reiterated that school boards will have to find the money for any CUPE wage increases in existing budgets, but that any teacher raises negotiated will be funded by the province.
CUPE, which represents teacher aides, custodians, clerical staff and other support workers, is seeking raises of two per cent per year after not having a raise in four years. Their latest contract expired in June 2012.
"We don't know an actual number," Narang said on Friday. "Between three and four per cent, these kind of numbers are floating around."
What they do know is that every one per cent of salary increase for the CUPE workers equals $435,000 that must be found somewhere.
"No matter what, we know we need to be looking for well over $1 million from our current budget," she said.
"We are a fairly lean board as it is. For us to find this is not going to be easy."
Narang believes it's realistic for the CUPE workers to get a raise, but is concerned about the long-term impact of funding that without more money from the provincial government.
"How much more can we continue cutting?" she said. "I want to be optimistic we'll be able to do it, but with every year it's getting harder and harder."
Narang said it was "reassuring" to hear that the board will not have to cover any possible teacher salary increases under existing budgets. The province's contract with BC teachers expired in June.
"There was some comfort in that."
As for what areas could face cuts, she said that just as in its annual budgeting process, core services will be protected. But otherwise, staff have not been given any specific directives.
"We don't want to micromanage our staff's ability to be creative," she said.
They've also not been given a deadline, as the province's contract talks with CUPE are continuing. The board met soon after the news to allow staff to get a head start.
"We want to be ready."