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PRINCE ALBERT: School support staff workers in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division are disappointed the School Board denied their request to present their concerns to the Board at its monthly meeting today.

The support staff, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, sent a letter to the Board on January 5th requesting the opportunity to meet with them to discuss employees concerns over the slow pace of contract negotiations. Employees felt the presentation would improve the Boards understanding of the issues. But the Board denied the staffs request.

The more than 400 school board employees work in 25 schools in Prince Albert, Kinistino, Christopher Lake, Birch Hills and other communities. The CUPE bargaining unit includes teaching and library assistants, bus drivers, caretakers, secretaries, computer technicians, maintenance staff and many other staff members. The workers have been without a new collective agreement for more than three years.

The CUPE members are frustrated by the lack of progress at the bargaining table. And increasingly, they are feeling betrayed, says Sherry Rishchynski, chair of the CUPE negotiating committee.

Our members were promised that no one would lose when their four school divisions were amalgamated in the fall of 1997. But the Board hasnt honoured that promise at the table; theyre demanding concession after concession, she explains.

Ms. Rishchynski, a teaching assistant in the school division, says the more than 400 CUPE members in the local are seeking wage parity in each classification. We expect every teaching assistant to be paid the same, every secretary to be paid the same and every bus driver to be paid the same in our school division, says Ms. Richchynski. A childs education isnt worth less in a rural school. So why should the staff be paid less?

CUPE wants the increases applied retroactively to January 1998.

The union chair says members of the Local will hold an information rally outside the school board office this evening from 6:15 p.m. to 7 :00 p.m., where copies of their presentation will be hand-delivered to Board members.

We want to ensure the school board members gets the message: Its time they negotiated a fair and just collective agreement with support staff, she states.

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For more information, leave a message for Sherry at the Prince Albert CUPE office 922-3895