Oshawa, Ont. – Durham Public School Board workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are preparing for a strike after conciliation talks with the employer broke down last week.
“Our members are facing workload issues on a daily basis – we do not have enough time and staff to do our work,” said Don Bryans, president of CUPE 218. “Provincial underfunding and the surge in population in our community have increased our workload dramatically – but management’s failure to deal with these problems has led us to a potential strike.”
CUPE 218 represents 900 educational assistants (EAs), 650 custodial and maintenance workers, and 450 office, clerical and technical staff at the Durham Public School Board. The over 2000 workers provide care, administration and maintenance services to over 70,000 students in 133 schools in the Durham region.
In response to a flawed provincial funding formula, the school board has downloaded extra duties to EAs, without giving them more time to do their work, has asked clerical staff to take work home with them if they don’t have time to do it during their scheduled work hours, and has failed to deal with a shortage of custodial staff.
“School board workers are putting in unpaid extra hours every day and we still cannot finish off the work – this is unfair and has to stop,” said Bryans. “Our workers and the students deserve better from this board. The Catholic School Board recognized this problem and provided their employees with additional time to offset the increased workload – why can’t our school board do the same and value staff and the work we do?”
The union requested a ‘no-board’ report from the provincial conciliator, triggering a countdown to a legal strike or lockout that could start the week of March 19. The workers’ contract expired on February 28, 2006 for the office, clerical and technical staff, and at the end of March of last year for the EAs, custodial and maintenance workers. Other outstanding issues include job postings and seniority language, wages and benefits.
“We would rather be working with students than marching on the picket lines, but the workload issue is about the future of quality education in our growing community, and we are committed to getting more time and staff to devote to students,” said Bryans. Mediation talks between management and union representatives are scheduled for March 5, 6, 8 and 9.
Don Bryans, President CUPE 218 - 905-571-7879,; Joanne Wilson, CUPE National Rep - 905-433-4760 - 289-404-0797 cell; James Chai, CUPE Communications - 416-292-3999