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(FREDERICTON) A group of court stenographers demonstrated at Premier Bernard Lords office today, protesting slow contract talks to remedy a huge wage inequity.

The stenographers, members of CUPE 1840, have been in contract negotiations since last November. The 63 workers earn an average $29,000 a year. Efforts to reach wage parity with co-workers in the justice system earning $40,000 a year – despite having lower qualifications and fewer responsibilities – have failed. The governments latest offer is a 4.5 per cent wage increase over five years a raise of two cents an hour.

“Thats simply unacceptable. Were here to give Premier Lord our two cents about the insulting two cents weve been offered,” said Patricia Roy, President of CUPE 1840. “Were the lowest paid workers in the provincial civil service and were all women. The Premier should be ashamed.”

The stenographers undergo a rigorous screening and testing process and do highly skilled work. In addition to keeping an accurate record of court proceedings, they are trusted with the care and control of many courtroom exhibits including drugs, firearms, bloody weapons and large amounts of money. Stenographers also act as a collection agency for unpaid fines. “Time and time again we go beyond the call of duty working long hours and many days without a break. We keep the provinces justice system working. Its time our work got the respect and recognition it deserves. We need dollars not cents,” said Roy.

The stenographers are the lowest paid in the Atlantic provinces. They will continue to protest until the Premier intervenes and orders the employer to negotiate a contract that bridges the huge wage gap between stenographers and their co-workers. “Before the election, the Premier committed to us hed close the wage gap. Well, were here to collect,” said CUPE National Representative Edmund Grenier. “Were sick and tired of empty promises and stonewalling from Justice negotiators. We demand that the Premier tell his Department of Justice to fix this shocking injustice.”

Negotiations have gone nowhere, after the latest three days of talks. The workers have proposed several creative solutions to the wage gap. But the government refuses to budge. “The governments like a broken record, repeating the same tired old offer. Its time they changed their tune,” said Roy.

For more information:

Patricia Roy and Edmund Grenier (cell phone) 506-545-5190

March 31, 2000

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