As employees picketed its head office in L’Orignal Tuesday morning, Le Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien said that its schools remain open and buses would continue to roll.
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4155 members began demonstrating after contract talks broke down last week.
Each side was blaming the other for the impasse at the French-language Catholic board which administers 25 elementary and eight secondary schools, with a total enrolment of over 10,000, in Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and Prescott-Russell.
CUPE 4155 represents supervisors, school administrators, clerks, maintenance workers, library technicians and IT technicians at the CSDCEO.
The CSDCEO is still the only school board in Ontario without a local collective agreement with its education workers. “But now its refusal to reach a deal at the bargaining table has taken its employees – members of CUPE 4155 – to the brink of a strike,” the union stated.
But the board replies that union negotiators chose to leave the bargaining table.
At a session February 1, conciliators proposed new dates for negotiations. These dates were accepted by the CSDCEO, but were rejected by the union, the board says. CUPE subsequently issued a notice of intention to strike.
“During the many negotiating meetings, CSDCEO has always negotiated in good faith and proposed different solutions. We believe it is possible to avoid a labor dispute, since all monetary issues have already been determined by central agreements. The CSDCEO remains willing to negotiate with CUPE and does not want a labor dispute,” insisted board director of education François Turpin.
If the labour dispute continues, all necessary steps will be taken to ensure the safety and welfare of students and staff, the board said.
“We have been extremely patient with our employer, so that we could avoid just such a labour dispute,” said Raymond Giroux, president of CUPE 4155.
“But after 12 bargaining dates and the impasse we reached in negotiations – even working with conciliators – we realized that, unfortunately, the time had come to take job action, up to and including a full strike.”