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GRIMSHAW – 180 Peace River School Division support workers are looking to put pressure on the local school board to settle outstanding wage and benefit issues before the school year starts.

CUPE Local 9857 will hold a community BBQ on Saturday, August 19, from 5 to 8 pm, at the Elks Hall in Grimshaw.

All community members are invited to attend. There will be food, entertainment, and speakers.

CUPE Local 9857 represents educational assistants, office managers, secretaries, information specialists, and maintenance staff. The school support workers have been working without a contract for over a year.

Bargaining has reached a total impasse, as the board refuses to budge on wages. PRSD support workers earn, on average, $2/hour less than the workers in neighbouring divisions. PRSD support staff wages are not keeping pace with other northern school divisions, let alone the private sector.

Peace River’s booming economy and skyrocketing cost of living means extremely high turnover for support staff in PRSD schools. Staffing shortages are a reality, which lead to less time for individual children.

Our members deliver essential educational supports. Schools cannot function without us,” says Local 9857 President Carmen Geisser-Smith.

High quality education depends on well-supported, well-maintained schools,” adds Geisser-Smith, noting that support staff play an increasingly significant role in delivering education services.

CUPE is simply asking for wage fairness, so that schools can recruit and retain enough people to do these important jobs,” concludes Geisser-Smith.