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WAINWRIGHT CUPE members employed by Buffalo Trail School Division have voted 85% in favour of a strike. At 11 a.m. this morning, union President Margaret Templeton has given the school district the legally required 72 hours strike notice, saying she expects picket lines to go up on Friday at 11 a.m.

The strike vote comes after last minute talks between the union and the school division failed to reach a settlement.

Templeton said CUPE was called back to the table after the district indicated that it had a new offer. However, Templeton said the new offer was almost the same as previous ones.

We are not looking for anything special, just a cost of living increase, said Templeton. 85% of our members said their offer wasnt good enough.

Templeton said 198 out of 231 members cast ballots last night, a turnout she called remarkable particularly given the fact many CUPE members had to travel long distances to cast their ballots. A strike would impact custodians, maintenance staff, secretaries, and teaching assistants.

This is a hard decision, we know students and parents depend upon us, said Templeton. But because our employer wont budge, we feel like our backs are against a wall.

Templeton says it will be difficult for the school district to operate without CUPE members, as the end of September is when schools report final enrolment figures to Alberta Learning.

Any school strike is difficult, after a few days without custodial service, it gets pretty hard to operate in a safe and clean environment, said Templeton. Add in the chaos of reporting to the ministry, and its going to be very difficult for the school division to muddle through.

Templeton said CUPE will do whatever it takes to avert a strike, and pledged to bargain around the clock if necessary.