Biggar: Conciliation talks between the CUPE school support workers and the Biggar Public School Division broke down last night, after the Board continued to insist on re-writing many parts of the collective agreement.
Department of Labour conciliator Doug Forseth joined the bargaining table on February 11. But after two weeks of talks, he felt the two sides were too far apart to reach an agreement.
The Board, led by Saskatchewan School Trustees’ negotiator Bill Wells, has been on a power surge during this round of negotiations, attempting to strip employees of their seniority rights, job security and other contract provisions. The Board also is hiring more scabs each week, in an effort to break the strike.
Marion Kimber, President of the CUPE Local and an employee of the Division for the past 21 years, says she has never seen anything like this before.
“I can’t recall a time when we were treated so poorly by the Board. It seems like it’s all about power,” she says. “The Board wants the power to hire and fire who they please. They don’t seem to care about us, or our many years of service to this school division.”
The 46 teaching and library assistants, secretaries and caretakers began strike action on February 4, in response to the employer’s final offer, which took away seniority rights and other contract improvements. The school employees work in the communities of Biggar, Cando, Sonningdale, Handel, Landis and three Hutterite colonies.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Board and SSTA are prepared to sacrifice the interests of students, parents and employees in an effort to bust the union,” says union spokesperson Penny McCallum, a striking teaching assistant.
Although the CUPE members are disappointed by the Board’s attitude, the spirit on the picket line remains strong.. “We are more determined than ever to achieve a settlement that values and respects our contribution to the school division,” she states.
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For more information call Penny McCallum at 948-6842 or Bea Devenny at 948-5490 or at Strike Headquarters at