Driving a hard bargain After a year of talks CUPE contract reaches agreement with school district When the Howe Sound School District and the local of the Canadian Union of Public Employees ratified a two-year collective agreement last week, an employee evaluation plan and subsequent new recruiting guidelines were part of the deal. According to Nancy Edwards, secretary-treasurer of the Howe Sound School District, the evaluation clause may be new here, but it's not on the cutting edge of labour/management talks. In order to facilitate clearer evaluation procedures and streamline hiring practices employees will now be ranked by a board made up of two CUPE representatives and two school board members from the district. The contract, which ends a year of tough bargaining, is retroactive to Jan. 1, 1994 and contains wage and benefit increases totaling 1.25 per cent in the first year and 1.77 per cent in year two. "We did start a process in the this school district 15 years ago and at that time we were considered pioneers," Edwards says. "Now, by no stretch of the imagination are we being pioneers." Each job in the district will now have a detailed description as Edward says the previous ones are "not complete evaluations." CUPE Local 779 represents all support staff in the district. Support staff include non-teaching staff, teacher assistants, crossing guards, janitors, secretaries and bus drivers. Details of the agreement will not be released until the final document is signed by both parties. Edwards said the evaluation criteria and procedures have not been written into the terms of reference for the agreement yet and will not be final until the New Year. The district includes Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton. Earlier this winter some parents expressed concerns about school buses and driving conditions after a bus full of players from the Simon Fraser University Women's basketball team went off a highway in Washington State during a snow storm. Three of the passengers were hospitalized. According to Terry Aldridge, transport supervisor for the south end of the district, bus drivers in the district must possess a valid Class 2 licence, allowing operation of a passenger bus with over 10 passengers. The south end of the district has seven CUPE member bus drivers, while there are 10 in the Whistler-Pemberton area. He says he doesn't think the new contract containing evaluation clauses will change bus driving qualifications. Bus drivers are required to have first aid training and more. "Driving the bus is a lot of PR work," Aldridge says. "Dealing with teachers, parents, principals and other drivers is more involved than driving the bus."