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A New Brunswick appeal court has overturned an earlier decision that denied school board workers the right to strike.

The Oct. 19 ruling set aside an earlier labour board decision that declared school custodians essential workers and required large numbers of workers to go to work during a work stoppage.

Delalane Harris Foran, whose local, CUPE 1253 represents the custodians, points out that for years the union and management have worked out an arrangement where a “skeleton staff” kept school buildings safe during contract disputes.

“But this time, the employer wanted to keep everything going ‘business as usual’,” she said.

The labour board granted the employer’s request, because they assumed that during a strike or lockout schools would stay open.

The court of appeal ruled that this was not the case.

Schools had been closed during past contract disputes and the province’s education act gives the minister the authority to close schools for any sufficient reason.