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Residents in the Wadena School Division voted unanimously to remove the board chair, the director of education and the employers lead negotiator at a special public meeting on Dec. 9.

The special meeting, demanded by electors under the Education Act, drew a crowd of 65 people, who braved icy roads and bitterly cold temperatures to travel to Fosston a hamlet in the middle of this rural school division to voice their concerns with the protracted contract dispute between the school board and its support staff.

The 80 school support workers, members of CUPE 3078, have been walking the picket line for nearly four months. They are seeking improved wages and basic benefits. The employer is demanding a long list of concessions.

But there was little sympathy for the Boards position at the public meeting, where residents passed motions calling for the immediate resignation of the board chair, the removal of the director of education and the firing of the employers lead negotiator Bill Wells. They also supported resolutions demanding the employer remove all concessions from the bargaining table and negotiate a fair agreement with the school support workers.

Although the board is required to organize the meeting under the Education Act, the resolutions passed at the meeting are not binding. And none of the board members attended.

But that didnt discourage the CUPE strikers. We saw a lot of heads roll at the public meeting and all of them belonged to the Employers representatives, says CUPE 3078 vice president Sheila Bindig. It was both enjoyable and just.

The Wadena School Division was found guilty of three unfair labour practices in October, including trying to coerce or intimidate the strikers. Hearings on two more unfair labour practices charges against the board will take place next week.

On January 1, the Wadena School Division will be amalgamated with two other divisions and a new school board will take control of contract negotiations.

The CUPE strikers are hopeful that the changes result in a positive resolution to the strike.