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WADENA A serious split is emerging in the Wadena School Division, as 80 school support workers begin their fourth consecutive week on the picket line.

The director of education publicly stated last week the employer was prepared to return to the bargaining table for face-to-face meetings with the union. But when provincial conciliator Doug Forseth contacted the employers bargaining representative Bill Wells to arrange dates, he refused to meet.

Wells, a negotiator with the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association, also claimed he didnt know that the director of education had offered to resume negotiations.

The employers bargaining team is in disarray, says CUPE 3078 president Donna Zarowny. Its difficult to know who is calling the shots. Is it the director of education in Wadena or the Saskatchewan School Trustees representative in Regina?

It certainly explains why we havent been able to reach a settlement with the employer they cant even agree on whether to meet, she adds.

Provincial conciliator Doug Forseth has tried to secure bargaining dates from the employer for weeks, but without any success.

The employer representatives have turned this round of bargaining into a grudge match, says Ms. Zarowny. They appear to be much more interested in protecting their egos than providing quality education services.

Residents need to tell their division board members and management team to grow up and negotiate a settlement to this protracted dispute, she says. If these people cant get the job done, others are ready to replace them when school board elections are held on October 22, she adds.

The Wadena School Division is amalgamating with two other school divisions on January 1, 2004. However, the existing board is responsible for contract negotiations until December 31.

Wadena school support workers began rotating job action in April and resorted to a full-blown strike on August 25.

The workers are seeking an optical plan and extended health benefits. They also want a significant wage increase to bring them up to the average wage in the province.

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For more information contact:
Donna Zarowny at 338-7220.