Union rejects school boards latest contract offer, strike begins Monday morning

Dave Mathieson
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Only one issue separates union and school board

Members of CUPE Local 3890, seen here entering and leaving E.B. Chandler Junior High School on Sunday, voted in favour of not ratifying the latest contract offered by the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.

AMHERST – Bus drivers, custodian’s and tradespeople working at schools in Cumberland County will be on strike Monday morning.

“Fifty four per cent of the members turned down the employers final offer,” said Ron Davis, CUPE Local 3890 president, after Sunday’s vote. "There will be strike starting tomorrow."

Local 3890 includes school bus drivers, school custodians and school tradespeople.

There are 450 members in the union and 421 came out for the vote.

Contracting out is the only issue that separates the union and the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board.

“Nobody wants to go without a pay cheque but, at the same time, we feel we need this article in our collective agreement, the no contracting out article,” said Davis. “That is the only article that, at this point, we’re arguing about. Everything else has been ironed out.”

Davis says the school board has previously contracted out work.

“What triggered this was we had a couple members on layoff and they contracted out work that those members could have done,” he said.

“We’re asking that, before the board contracts anything out, any of our qualified employees would be called back from layoff first,” he added. "That’s what we are asking, and the board, right now, doesn’t want to give that.”

Currently, no further contract negotiations are scheduled between the union and the school board but Davis says the union’s door is always open.

“We would go back and talk to the employer at any point,” he said. “If they called us back tonight we would probably gather the troops and head down to Truro tonight.”

Davis has been a member of the union in several different capacities for 20 years, and he says Sunday was the biggest turnout they’ve had for a vote.

“A lot of times you vote and you might not go on strike for a month or two after that vote, so people are optimistic that maybe between the vote and the strike there will be a resolution,” said Davis. “But at this one today you’re voting to walk out tomorrow.That’s why I think there was a large number of people out.”

Voting was held Sunday at E. B. Chandler Junior High School in Amherst, and also at Northumberland Regional High School in Alma, and at Central Colchester Junior High School in Onslow.

Davis says that about 70 of the 80 members of Local 3890 from Cumberland County turned out for the vote at E.B.C.

“I Don’t know the number of votes in one region because it’s a sealed box. All 421 votes are counted together,” said Davis. “We don’t count Pictou’s votes, and then Truro’s votes, and then Cumberland votes, we’re all one membership and we can’t do that.”

Davis says the membership in Cumberland seemed responsive to not accepting the latest offer.

“The members look at it like, it doesn’t matter if it’s one member or five members, if they’re out of work and laid off why should some contractor come in and do their job while they’re sitting on unemployment, or worse, their unemployment has run out and they don’t have money coming in and we have a contractor doing it,” said Davis. “There’s no excuse for that. It doesn’t make sense why the board would pay more to a contractor to do that work than what they could get from that employee doing that work.”

Davis says he is not sure what schools will do with regards to keeping schools clean and their sidewalks clear of snow but says his union will provide emergency services to the CCRSB.

“If there is an emergency our tradespeople will go in and fix the emergency to make sure no children get hurt,” said Davis. “The last thing we want to see is someone get hurt.”




Organizations: Cumberland County Students, Central Regional School Board

Geographic location: Chignecto, Cumberland County

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