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LONDON, Ont. – Thames Valley District School Board workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), are preparing for strike action after talks broke down yesterday between management and union negotiators. “Our members need more time to do their jobs,” said Pat Wilson, vice-president of CUPE 4222, Unit C. “Six hours a day to do a full day of work is not enough to take care of students with special needs.” CUPE 4222, Unit C represents over 876 educational and instructional assistants, providing care to special needs children in 186 schools in the City of London and in Elgin, Oxford and Middlesex counties. The union has requested a “no-board” report from the provincial conciliator, starting a countdown to a legal strike or lockout. The workers will be in a legal strike position as early as May 4th. Their last contract expired on August 31, 2005. “Our members are there in the morning to greet the students and we are there at the end of the day to send the students home,” said Wilson. “In between, we supervise the students, implement programmes and assist students with physical and medical needs – we often skip our breaks, work through lunch, arrive early and stay late to complete all our duties.” “It’s time for management to realize that we put in more than a full-day’s work to take care of the students’ needs,” said Wilson. “Other Ontario school boards offer their educational and instructional assistants seven hours to take care of students – there’s no reason why this board cannot offer the same, after all the board had a five million dollar surplus last year.” The workers recently voted 92 per cent to take strike action if a fair contract is not reached. Other outstanding issues include wages and benefits. “We would rather be working than walking the picket line,” said Wilson. “Our struggle is about getting more time to devote to students, because the children deserve better.” -30- For further information, please contact: Pat Wilson, Vice-President (Unit C), CUPE Local 4222, 519-852-2264 cell Jennifer Kaufman, CUPE National Representative, 519-433-1753, 519-852-2803 cell James Chai, CUPE Communications, 416-292-3999