Burnaby district to cut staff to fund CUPE wage hikes

Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang -
Burnaby school board chair Baljinder Narang
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There will be job losses at Burnaby school district to help fund the recently negotiated pay hikes for Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) school support workers.

Ironically, many of the jobs cut will be from the ranks of the CUPE support workers.

The total 3.5 per cent wage hike being phased in is for one per cent effective July 1, 2013, the next two per cent on Feb. 1 and the last 0.5 per cent on May 1.

For the current 2013-2014 school year, that equates to $855,000 which will be funded primarily from reserves, said district secretary-treasurer Greg Frank.

For 2014-2015 it amounts to almost $1.6 million, which will be funded through a series of ongoing measures.

"Those adjustments are focused across a wide range of areas trying to minimize the impact on the classroom," Frank said.

Those include 9.4 full-time-equivalent staff reductions, "the heaviest reductions coming in the support staff areas," he said.

CUPE support staff include custodians, clerical staff, resource workers, education assistants and pretty much anyone who is not a teacher, administrator or exempt staff at the district.

There will also be an increased focus on energy savings, and cuts to replacement staff, casual clerical hours, staff overtime, supplies and services. The district will increase revenues through a five-per-cent hike in rental rates at its facilities, and plans some restructuring within its transportation services.

But that's just the beginning of the cuts.

Apart from funding the CUPE pay hikes, the district was already expecting a $6-million budget shortfall in 2014-2015 if the status quo is maintained.

"Everything is now up for review," said school board chair Baljinder Narang.

She noted that the district's approach has generally been to cut costs but with minimal impact on classrooms.

"My fear is that eventually these cuts are going to have to impact our classroom, the area that we have been trying to protect most. The cutting is getting nearer and nearer to that protective layer, if you will," Narang said.

"I believe we're doing this generation of students a huge disservice if we have to make any more cuts. That is something that really worries me because time and opportunity lost cannot be recaptured."

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