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Wadena: School support workers in the Wadena School Division walked off the job at 9 a.m. today to pressure the school board to negotiate a fair agreement. Its the second time in the last month that picket lines have gone up outside the school division office in Wadena.

The 80 support workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, are employed as teacher assistants, secretaries, caretakers, library assistants and other positions in the school division. They have been trying to achieve a new agreement with the school board for more than two years.

Todays walk-out affects schools in Kelvington, Rose Valley, Quill Lake, Archerwill, Wadena, Lintlaw and the Lakeside Hutterite Colony.

The CUPE members are angry over the boards refusal to drop its demands for concessions, including reduced seniority rights and job security protection.

Its terribly unfair, says union spokesperson Sheila Bindig. The school support workers are the poorest paid employees in the division, earning as little as $7,000 a year. We have no dental plan or optical coverage. And the boards response has been to insist we live with even less.

Although the two sides returned to the bargaining table on April 23 with conciliator George Wall, the employer continued to insist on concessions.

It appears to us that the school division would rather provoke a fight with its support staff than negotiate a reasonable settlement, says CUPE staff representative Sharon Lockwood.

CUPE education workers in the division do not receive any pay when the schools are closed for holidays or school breaks. And their wages are below the provincial average paid to unionized school workers.

The starting wage for a teaching assistant in the Wadena School Division, for example, is only $8.73 an hour, 16% less than the provincial average of unionized.

The support workers say will not be bullied by the employer. Education workers in this division have never walked a picket line before. But if thats what it takes to persuade the employer to negotiate a fair agreement, thats what we are going to do, says Ms. Bindig.

For more information call:

CUPE Local 3078 Vice-President Sheila Bindig at 338-3907
CUPE Staff Rep Sharon Lockwood at 221-3952
CUPE Communications Rep Beth Smillie at 539-8597.