WHITECOURT – After returning to the bargaining table yesterday to try and renew a collective agreement and avoid strike action, AUPE’s Living Waters members held their first picket line today when talks at the table broke down and the Board filed for lockout.
“At every turn the Living Waters Board has treated our members like they’re worthless and replaceable,” said AUPE Vice-President Rod Feland.
“The employer’s decision to lock out staff is par for the course at this point, and shows just how little they value our members’ specialized knowledge, and special relationships with the schools and the students who go there.”
Staff have been fighting to make the Living Waters schools a better place for the workers and kids who spend every day there. Among their top asks are a wage increase that would just cover the rising cost of living, and defined hours of work to create a more stable environment for students whose learning is suffering from the unstable staff scheduling.
“The employer has been pushing back against these monetary improvements for two and a half years now, and their justifications continuously fail to tell the whole story,” adds Feland.
Earlier this week, the Board stated their staff are some of the highest paid school support workers, compared to employees doing similar work in four other Alberta school divisions.
AUPE conducted a similar analysis, comparing the average wages of support staff in seven Alberta school divisions. The union found Living Waters TAs made $0.62 below the average of those divisions’ wages and library clerks made $1.70 below the average.
Furthermore, over half of the Living Waters support staff were hired in the last five years, meaning they aren’t earning top wages.
Yesterday, in bargaining, the employer’s Corporate Treasurer admitted that the highest salary their Education Assistants could make was only about $26,500 a year.
Some staff have also been relying on the food bank.
“Our members hours are so sporadic, many are taking home far less each year than they should. That the Board keeps cutting hours when class sizes are growing is just careless, and students are the ones who will suffer the most.
Support staff recognize this and aren’t going to let their towns’ students go it alone. That’s why they voted in favour of strike action, which is always a last resort,” said Feland.
AUPE represents over 93,000 workers province-wide. More than 100 work for the Living Waters School Board as financial assistants, library clerks, education assistants, maintenance, secretaries, typists and custodians.
For more information:
Celia Shea, Communications Officer: 780-720-8122
Tyler Bedford, Senior Communications Officer: 780-298-7626