The frontline custodians and cleaners who keep schools clean and safe are beginning strike action, setting up picket lines outside the Rolling River School Division School Board (RRSD) office in Minnedosa.

The strike began at the Minnedosa Collegiate and the Rolling River School Division Board Office at 36 Armitage Avenue, Minnedosa, Manitoba, and took effect at 12:00 am, Monday, November 1.

“The Rolling River School Division has refused to negotiate a fair deal with custodians and cleaners,” said Kevin Jay, President of CUPE 1630, representing 21 striking workers. “We didn’t want to go on strike, but custodians and cleaners in other school divisions have been treated fairly, why are we worth less?”

Custodians and cleaners at RRSD are asking for the same general wage increases and duration achieved by teachers and other support staff in Manitoba.

Twenty-two CUPE school support staff locals in Manitoba have already achieved this same agreement with their divisions.

The Provincial Conservative government has been pushing an unacceptable wage mandate through the Manitoba School Boards Association, who have been negotiating on the employer’s behalf.

“The province has been trying to interfere with negotiations across Manitoba, but many school divisions have already rejected the province’s unfair mandates, because they value school staff,” said Jay. “Our community knows how valuable school custodians and cleaners are, and we urge our school trustees to make the right choice.”

CUPE condemns Division’s use of replacement workers.

The Rolling River School Division has indicated its intent to hire temporary cleaning staff in an effort to undermine the custodians and cleaners who are on strike. Using replacement workers will also prolong a strike and is unfair to parents and other school staff. “We know our schools, and we take pride in our work and our community,” said Jay. “Using temporary cleaners could result in inferior maintenance and sanitation and put our schools at risk.”

CUPE urges the Rolling River School Division trustees to reject the use of temporary workers and settle a fair contract with staff.

CUPE 1630 says the best way to end the strike is for parents and community members at the Rolling River School Division to contact their RRSD school trustee, and tell them to offer custodians and cleaners the same deal achieved by teachers and many other CUPE school support staff in other school divisions in Manitoba.