OTTAWA, Ont. – School board workers with the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic District School Board, represented by Local 2357 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), voted in favour of a strike at a local union meeting on Wednesday, March 8th, to fight concession demands from their employer. The predominantly female workforce will be in a legal strike or lockout position on Monday, April 3rd.
“Management is trying to create a two-tier workforce, stripping away contract rights from term employees and staff who work with dependently handicapped students outside regular hours and the school calendar,” said Lori Ladouceur, president of CUPE 2357. “These children cannot take two months off in the summer without losing the gains they’ve made through specialized learning methods – the board’s failure to support staff in this case is a real attack on the students. We cannot stand for it.”
Management’s concession demands include:
- Excluding term employees from collective agreement provisions and denying them seniority rights;
- Excluding staff who work outside the regular school year from sick leave, bereavement leave and other collective agreement rights (2-tier workforce);
- Management wants to unilaterally change benefits (outside of the collective agreement process).
CUPE represents over 900 workers at the board, including office and administration, special education staff, school support staff, library and computer technicians and secretaries. While no further contract talks have been scheduled, the union remains available to meet with management before the strike deadline.
The union tabled a proposal to equip special education workers with walkie-talkies to enable staff to call for assistance in a violent situation, but so far the school board has refused. Management has so far refused to establish a policy to counter violence in the workplace, despite CUPE’s requests through joint Health and Safety committees and appeals to the ministry of Labour. “Safety in our schools is not just an issue for workers – it affects other students and the entire school community,” said Andy Mele, CUPE national representative. “This is an issue the board must deal with as required by the Safe Schools Act.”
“A strike is really our last resort to fight for justice in our workplace,” said Ladouceur. “It’s not about money. It’s about respect and fair treatment, and if the school board refuses to back away from concessions, we’ll have no choice but to hit the bricks on April 3rd.”
For further information, please contact:
Lori Ladouceur, President, CUPE 2357, 613-240-2204
Andy Mele, CUPE National Representative, 613-237-0115
Robert Lamoureux, CUPE Communications, 416-292-3999