CUPE 4195 is very concerned about Saskatchewan Rivers School Board’s recent decision to lay off over 340 members–the entire local–and hire them back at reduced hours. The school board covers Prince Albert and surrounding rural areas.

Both parties ratified a new collective agreement in early March, which included wage increases. While a reduction of three days was brought up at the table, nothing was agreed to. The union was quite disappointed when all 340 of its members were given layoff notices last week, with a reduction in days ranging from three to 12 days of work, depending on their classifications. At no point did CUPE sign on to be part of the process for members to lose any days of work.

“The employer decided to go ahead and pursue reductions that were well in excess of the three days initially discussed,” said John Kunard, president of CUPE 4195. “This clearly does not follow the collective agreement process for layoffs and reduction of hours, and it is a bit of a slap in the face considering we just finished bargaining.”

The union is worried about the impact this will have not only on members but also on students.

“We feel strongly that all the hours we work make a difference to students and provide a quality learning environment,” added Kunard. “A reduction of three to 12 days of work will be felt in the classroom, and that is unacceptable.”

There are concerns across the province about what a growing provincial deficit will mean for funding for education. Several other school divisions have announced limited layoffs, but Saskatchewan Rivers is the only division to impose sweeping changes across all support staff.

CUPE members are the lowest paid staff in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division,” said Kunard. “If there has to be budget cuts, cuts should start at the top with positions that will not have a direct impact on students.”

“We have been meeting with the employer to try to come to a resolution to this issue, but the employer’s approach is not conducive to productive labour relations,” added Kunard. “We will continue to fight these layoffs and do our best to ensure that all students have the support they need in the school system.”

CUPE 4195 represents support staff in several classifications at Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, including educational assistants, social workers, library technicians, office support, cooks, and language assistants.