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After four years battling an employer that was determined to contract out its work, the custodians of Edmontons Public Schools have secured a precedent setting five year ban on contracting out their work.

Last week, Local 474 signed an agreement with the Board which guarantees that before August 2002, no employee will lose their job as a result of contracting out; any new site will be staffed by members of the bargaining unit; and all custodial work will be done by members of the local.

This victory would not have been possible without the solid support of the members themselves, our committee members, and our staff members, our National Officers, the Alberta Division and the National Representatives who have worked with the local for the last four years, said Local president Doug Luellman. Its been a long time in the making but it sure is sweet right now.

The locals campaign to stop contracting out included a number of novel ways for building public support. It commissioned a play on contracting out which played to sold out audiences at the local Fringe Theatre Festival. Local members working with an artist created large puppets and used a school band for its entry in the Klondike Days parade. The message of the parade entry was that custodians contribute to student achievement.

As well, the local was instrumental in getting CUPE locals to sponsor the KidsFringe, with support from the Divisions Im on Your Side Alberta campaign. As well, the local used billboards, bus signs and newspaper inserts to get its message across to both the public and its members.

The victory came at the eleventh hour, just before the government sponsored strike vote was to begin. The local went ahead with the vote, with 90 per cent of the members participating and 87 per cent supporting strike action.

The Local 474 settlement coincided with settlements for Local 3550 representing support staff and Local 784 representing trades and maintenance staff. The three locals had agreed to a joint bargaining strategy with Edmonton Board, resisting any attempt by their employer to divide and conquer.