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National President Judy Darcy met with New Brunswick finance minister Norman Betts September 28 to urge a fair settlement for striking court stenographers, but he insisted the week-old strike end before talks can begin again.

Thats ridiculous, Darcy told media after her meeting in Fredericton with Betts. Its a legal strike. She was also sharply critical of his refusal to allow a small delegation representing the 65 striking members of CUPE 1840 to accompany her.

When Betts finally agreed to the meeting, Darcy presented him with hundreds of signed coupons supporting the stenographers who are widely respected as the backbone of the provincial justice system.

After exhausting efforts to reach an agreement, CUPE 1840 struck September 25. They are prepared to return to the table, but the government has chosen not to continue talks.

NB court stenographers are badly underpaid compared to others in the Maritimes. For example, PEIs court stenos earned $17.63 an hour in 1999 or 13 per cent more than those in NB. Nova Scotias court stenos got $20.02 an hour or 28 per cent more.

Betts has argued that the stenos have been offered a reasonable increase. But the initial government offer was for two cents an hour and is now only 4.5 per cent over three years. The stenos earn about $29,500. Others in the same workplace earn up to $11,000 more for jobs with less responsibility.

The stenos strike is the latest show of CUPEs determination to back the struggle for improved wages for women across the country through its Up With Womens Wages! campaign launched on Labour Day.

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