School boards unionized support staff could strike in January

Staff ~ The Truro Daily News
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TRURO - About 600 unionized school board workers in this region could walk off the job in early January.
Betty Jean Sutherland, a Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) national representative based in New Glasgow, said Chignecto-Central Regional School Board's (CCRSB) unionized support staff including bus drivers, custodians and maintenance personnel want fair treatment and are willing to go to the picket lines to fight for equity.
"The bottom line here is we have the real potential for 11,000 public sector workers to be on the street as soon as January," said Sutherland.
CUPE represents school board support staff, as well as their counterparts in the health sector that could all be in a position to strike by early next year.
CCRSB support staff voted 93 per cent in favour of a strike in September, an action that can remain on the table for up to six months.
During the next two weeks about 3,100 union members, in the remaining six boards outside Halifax, will hold strike votes.
Sutherland said conciliation talks with the provincial lead table, the Annapolis Valley school board, have broken down, forcing conciliator Charlie Weir to declare an impasse in contract negotiations.
"Once he files his report with the Department of Labour, Minister of Labour, we are on countdown to strike," said the union rep.
She said they anticipate the report will be filed within the next week or two. During a 48-hour cooling period once the report is submitted the union will choose a strike date.
"We're still holding hope that we'll get called back to the conciliation table," said Sutherland, adding they want to do everything possible to avoid strike action.
The union wants the same salary increase of 2.9 per cent that was given to public school and community college teachers in their most recent contracts. There are also issues surrounding recruitment and retention.
"Their slogan is it's All About Fairness," said Sutherland. "They don't want anything more than their counterparts in the sector, but they are not willing to accept any less either."
CCRSB spokeswoman Carolyn Pierce said the school board's negotiating team and local CUPE members reached an agreement on local issues on Nov. 14. However, because lead table matters are at an impasse, CUPE members in this region may still be in a position to strike in the future.
"I think it is fair to say all boards are looking at contingency plans, but we are hopeful the lead table can reach a negotiated settlement without a disruption to students parents and staff," said Pierce.

Smartell@transcontinental.ca

Organizations: Canadian Union of Public Employees, Central Regional School Board, Annapolis Valley school board Department of Labour

Geographic location: New Glasgow, Chignecto, Halifax

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