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SAULT STE-MARIE, Ont. Trades, custodial and maintenance staff with the Algoma District School Board, have voted 95 per cent in favour of strike action if a contract settlement cannot be reached between the school board and Local 16 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Conciliation talks on March 29th and 30th failed to produce a settlement.

We are trying to achieve a collective agreement with a fair wage increase and it hasnt been easy so far, said Sheldon Rathwell, CUPE 16s negotiating committee chairperson. The board has so far not taken talks seriously enough, and we may have no choice but to go on strike. CUPE is ready to return to the negotiating table, but so far no mediation talks have been scheduled. The board has not settled any collective agreements with any of its bargaining units to date.

A strike is the last thing we want, but it may be necessary if we cant resolve past unfairness at the board, said Rathwell. In the previous round of negotiations, the board awarded 1 per cent more in wage increases to teachers, despite having promised to give caretakers an equal increase. CUPE is also seeking benefit improvements and a wage adjustment for trades workers, who have fallen behind in wages compared to workers performing similar duties in surrounding areas.

We will do our best to reach a settlement if we can get back to the table, added Rathwell. But it will take a show of good will from the board and a decent wage offer to avoid a strike. CUPE represents 200 workers at the school board, and a strike would affect schools in Sault Ste-Marie and area, and Algoma District.


For further information, please contact:

Sheldon Rathwell, Chair, CUPE 16 negotiating committee - 705-942-1564

Trish Andrews, CUPE National Representative - 705-949-6221

Robert Lamoureux, CUPE Communications - 416-292-3999