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WADENA CUPE, the union that represents striking education workers in Wadena, has filed an unfair labour practice against the school division board for refusing to bargain in good faith with its unionized support staff.

The school boards refusal to bargain, or meet with the provincial conciliator assigned to assist with contract negotiations, is a violation of the Trade Union Act and constitutes an unfair labour practice, the union alleges.

The two sides have not conducted face-to-face negotiations since November 21, 2002. And there have been no formal conciliation talks for more than three months.

Although director of education John Treso claimed publicly in recent weeks the board was prepared to negotiate, the employers negotiating representative Bill Wells of the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association continues to deny the conciliators repeated requests for bargaining dates.

Last week, the division board placed an ad in the local paper stating it was not prepared to negotiate any further. It said it would leave negotiations to the new Lakeview Division Board, which takes over in January.

Instead of negotiating a fair settlement to the dispute, the employer has turned this into a grudge match with its school support staff, says CUPE staff representative Sharon Lockwood.

Here we have a situation where school support workers nearly all women earning less than $10,000 a year are forced to strike to achieve wage and benefit improvements and maintain their collective agreement, while the division board is insisting they have to accept concessions. Its appalling, she states The wrong people are on the street.

In the unfair labour practice complaint to the Labour Relations Board, CUPE charges that the employers refusal to bargain is an abrogation of its authority and, indeed legal obligation, which is confirmed by a letter [the union received from] the Minister of Learning, Honourable Judy Junor.

The Ministers letter to CUPE, dated September 10, 2003, states the existing division board continues to have all the same legal powers and duties until December 31.

The 80 CUPE school support workers are employed as teacher associates, library techs, caretakers, secretaries and other support positions in the division. Schools in Rose Valley, Quill Lake, Quill Lake Hutterite Colony, Kelvington, Wadena, Archerwill and Lintlaw are affected by the strike, now in its fifth week.


For information contact Sheila Bindig 338-7220 (c)