B.C. Education minister remains mum on contract talks with support workers

VANCOUVER - British Columbia's education minister is not commenting publicly about any plans the government may have if the province's school-support workers end up striking.

Talks between the provincial government and the Canadian Union of Public Employees are scheduled to run next week, but the union has launched an ad campaign to gain public support and has said a strike is a real possibility.

The teachers' union has refused to say whether teachers will stay off their jobs out of respect for any CUPE picket line.

But Education Minister Peter Fassbender says the government has only one plan, and that's to come to a settlement to avoid any disruption in schools.

Fassbender says he actually agrees with CUPE's ad campaign that's informing the public about members' important role in schools as custodians, bus drivers, secretaries and other support workers.

The primary issue separating the government and union is wages, and the union has been arguing its members have not seen an increase in more than four years.

But the provincial government is negotiating under its so-called co-operative gains mandate, which states increases are only possible if corresponding savings can be found elsewhere.

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