By Amara Janssens
Students in the Bulkley Valley are heading back to school this week, but their return to classrooms may be short lived.
If negotiations fail between CUPE support workers and the province, it could force school closures as early as mid-September.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees, the union representing education assistants, secretaries, custodians and bus drivers, began bargaining talks with the province today which are expected to last until Friday.
Barbel Schroeter of CUPE Local 2145 said the union is asking for a two per cent wage increase over the next two years, something she said has been given to other provincial employees.
“We haven’t had a wage increase in four years and our last contract expired a year ago.”
Schroeter said support workers are not “rolling in money” as the average salary is about $24,000 a year.
“I’m hoping we come to a fair agreement.”
While negotiations take place, the province is looking for options on how a wage increase could be funded. School District 54 Bulkley Valley superintendant Chris Van der Mark said the province has asked school districts to come up with a savings plan.
“We don’t know how much of a savings plan we need to find,” Van der Mark said.
If a fair agreement between the province and union doesn’t come together, job action could result. And it could come in the form of a strike, something that could have school doors closed.
“The teachers have already stated their support to CUPE,” Schroeter said.