Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 997 gathered at Archie Stouffer Elementary School in Minden this past Saturday. They were there for an update on ongoing negotiations with the province and the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) as well as to take part in a strike vote.

“We had a strike vote on Saturday at ASES with a great turnout,” said local chapter president William Campbell. He declined to say what the result was. Following the release of provincial vote results in mid-September, he said he’d be able to share local numbers.

Campbell did say there was a lot of interest in the meeting from the education workers the union represents: education assistants; custodians; early childhood educators; school secretaries and clerical staff; library workers; IT technicians; maintenance and tradespeople; food service workers; child and youth workers; speech language pathologists; professionals; paraprofessionals and others.

“We have not seen a turnout like that since school board amalgamation 20 years ago,” Campbell said.

Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) chairperson Louise Clodd responded in a statement to The Highlander that, “a strike vote is part of the usual collective bargaining process. We look forward to sitting down with our local CUPE representatives to begin negotiations.”

Campbell replied, “In terms of local bargaining, we look forward to coordinating dates to meet with the employer on local issues.”

The Ontario School Board Council of Unions or OSBCU (representing CUPE) has been negotiating with the province and the CTA (representing school boards) since May. School board collective agreements expired on Aug. 31.

Campbell said OSBCU president Laura Walton and staff coordinator Darcie McEathron spoke to local members Saturday about the status of central bargaining. Campbell said other locals represented by CUPE have been, and will continue to, take strike votes across the province between Labour Day and Sept. 17. It’s all part of a CUPE job action plan launched last month. They said they’re acting amid ongoing job losses and cuts to services in school boards across the province.

Earlier this year, the TLDSB confirmed an overall reduction of 54.58 full time equivalent support staff positions.

“We believe the recommendation on job action by CUPE leaders delivers a clear message to our counterparts at the bargaining table,” Walton said in a CUPE communique dated Aug. 12. “It’s a call to restore funding so that education workers can deliver the high-quality education services that our schools rely on. And it’s saying, let’s work together to tackle the issues that threaten the quality of the services provided by education workers.”

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