School support workers vote for strike action

A slew of non-teacher educators could be heading to the picket line at Haliburton County schools later this month.

Educational assistants (EAs), janitors, early childhood educators, secretaries, librarians, IT workers, maintenance, cafeteria, child and youth staff and speech language pathologists are all members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) that is threatening to strike Sept. 30 if a deal cannot be reached with the province and local school boards.

Members of the local union, 997, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion for a strike mandate on Sept. 7 at Archie Stouffer Elementary School in Minden. Local president William Campbell said they had almost twice as many members attend that vote as they did for a 2015 strike vote. He said custodial maintenance were 98.8 per cent in favour while office clerical, technical and EAs voted 974 per cent in agreement. Across the province, the number was 93 per cent.

Bargaining is continuing at the central level with CUPEs provincial bargaining team meeting this week with the Council of Trustees’ Associations, the province and a mediator. Talks were continuing as of press time for this week’s edition of The Highlander.

“We’ll continue to do everything we can to avoid a labour disruption, but the strike vote results announced [Sept. 16] are a confirmation that CUPE members are ready to stand up for students, services and workers,” the union said in a bargaining update to members.

The communique, jointly written by Ontario School Board Council of Unions or OSBCU president Laura Walton and CUPE Ontario School Board Coordinator Darcie McEathron encouraged members to continue talking to parents, families and community allies; “tell them that we are preparing for job action so that we can deliver the high-quality services that Ontario students deserve.”

Earlier this year, the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) confirmed an overall reduction of 54.58 full time equivalent support staff positions. TLDSB board chair Louise Clodd, in a statement to The Highlander yesterday, said, “We are continuing to monitor central negotiations. We have not been provided with any additional information about potential job action by CUPE, and for now, it is business as usual in our schools.”

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