TRURO - Wage parity issues are not what union members employed with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board were concerned about when a strike vote was held last fall, one individual says.
"The main concern was our job security. They were taking away our snow plowing, which school board members have always done," said the worker, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. "And we were told by our union that once they start pulling things like that, that our security was at risk, that they could threaten to privatize. And that's what they definitely were afraid of."
That issue has since been resolved, however, said the person, who believes the wage parity issue has been brought to light in an effort to amalgamate the concerns of two sectors of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) as a way of putting more pressure on the provincial government to settle without a strike.
More than 4,000 acute care health-care workers and more than 3,000 school board support staff across the province (outside Halifax) have voted to strike on Jan. 18. Those numbers involve about 480 local health-care workers and about 600 board employees.
The union is demanding a 2.9 per cent wage increase in the first year of a three-year contract while the government has offered one per cent.
The health-care workers say they want to maintain wage parity with their counterparts in Halifax while the school board membership is looking to receive the same rate achieved by teachers and secretarial staff.
"The bulk of the Chignecto people I work with agree that it was job security," said the worker, who disagrees with the demand for 2.9 per cent.
"I think we are at a point right now where we don't really need or shouldn't even take a raise.
"We live in very hazardous times right now, you know. People are losing their jobs and I think we maybe should fight for that another day when times are better. That's not the reason I voted to strike. It was for job security."
CUPE school board co-ordinator Kathy MacLeod, however, disagrees.
"I guess you are going to hear all kinds of rumours and all kinds of reports but the documentation and what we're saying publicly is the (one per cent) wage offer ... is unacceptable and that was what all seven boards voted on," she said.
"What we're saying to the province is fairness. We want the 2.9 per cent that they gave to the teachers (and secretarial staff in their last contract)," MacLeod said.
"A teacher that lives in Halifax makes the same as a teacher in Cape Breton and all across Nova Scotia. And we're saying, why are you giving 2.9 per cent to the teachers and the support staff, here, you have one per cent.
"It doesn't make any sense to us and it all boils down to a fairness issue."