BIGGAR: The strike by support workers in the Biggar Public School Division entered its sixth month today, as the Labour Relations Board considers three unfair labour practices that charge the employer with repeatedly violating provisions of the Trade Union Act.
CUPE Local 2128, which represents the workers, presented its arguments at LRB hearings this week. The applications argue the school division threatened to deny disability and health benefits to striking employees, circumvented the union by negotiating directly with employees and tried to discourage union activity by circulating names of striking employees deemed to be qualified and publishing to the general public the terms of the employer’s final offer.
The Division Board was trying to circumvent due process and prejudice the outcome of the vote on the employers final offer held in April, said Bea Devenny, a striking teaching assistant. We had no choice but to file these unfair labour practices, because the Division Board wasnt respecting the provisions of the Trade Union Act. Not one of the six board members was even present at the hearings to be accountable for their actions.
The strike by the teaching and library assistants, caretakers and secretaries began on February 4.
Since February 24, the Division Board has only been available to bargain on four occasions. The school division has also hired scabs to clean schools and work as teaching assistants.
Devenny said the Division Board is still demanding major concessions in the areas of seniority rights, job security and amalgamation protection. Conciliator Doug Forseth has determined that new negotiations would not be productive until the Division Board changes its bargaining approach.
The Division Board has never had a mandate to demand these concessions and takeaways, said Devenny. How much longer do our schools and communities have to suffer?
We dont want to be out here on the picket line, but we have no choice. Were prepared to continue our strike until a fair collective agreement is settled that respects our existing seniority rights and job security provisions.
The school employees work in the communities of Biggar, Cando, Sonningdale, Handel, Landis and three Hutterite colonies.
For more information contact
Bea Devenny at CUPE strike headquarters in Biggar
at 948-3860 or by cell at 948-7757.