Okanagan trustees ask province to thaw wages

School trustees in Penticton voted this week to call on the B.C. government to unthaw its compensation freeze on administrators.

Okanagan Skaha School District board chairwoman Ginny Manning.

Okanagan Skaha School District board chairwoman Ginny Manning.

School trustees in Penticton voted this week to call on the B.C. government to thaw its compensation freeze on administrators.

Since non-unionized staff wages were frozen four years ago, the unionized workers they supervise have been gaining ground, explained Ginny Manning, chair of the Okanagan Skaha School District board.

“In some districts, a teacher who is doing some added work, like a department head or something like that, is getting paid more than a vice-principal,” she said.

Lifting the wage freeze on non-unionized workers was among seven motions the board discussed at a special session on Monday in advance of this weekend’s B.C. School Trustees Association provincial council meeting.

Okanagan Skaha trustees got together in advance to decide how their representative, Linda Van Alphen, will vote there.

Manning noted wage increases awarded to teachers and support staff in recent contracts also have the potential to create conflict between unionized and non-unionized staff.

“We have professional staff. They haven’t come complaining or grumbling at all. It’s just something that we feel, around the province, is an inequity,” she said.

“Our employees work hard all around and we’re certainly supportive of wage increases and compensation increases for all of our staff.

“However, we’re not supportive of some getting it and some not.”

Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union president Leslea Pryde could not be reached for comment.

Trustees also voted in favour of maintaining their link to civic politicians, even if it means longer terms in office.

In September, delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention called on the B.C. government to increase civic politicians’ terms in office to four years, up from the current three.

School trustees are voted in on the same cycle, and Manning said although current board members aren’t interested in longer terms, they feel it’s more important that the link is maintained to save money on election costs.

The seven motions on the agenda at Monday’s meeting are considered emergent issues for the BCSTA as they relate to the B.C. Education Ministry’s stated desire to pass legislation this spring that will lay out a new bargaining structure it will use in future negotiations with school workers.