School board rejects union offer to move to binding arbitration

John Brannen
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On Tuesday night, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board rejected the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3890’s offer to move to binding interest arbitration to resolve outstanding issues around job security.

School bus drivers could be in a legal strike position Thursday.

This means more than 400 bus drivers, custodians and tradespeople in CUPE Local 3890 will be in a legal strike position today and, with 48 hours notice, may begin a strike action.

The offer to move to binding interest arbitration was made by CUPE to move the board into an agreement around expanded job security for CUPE employees.

CUPE proposed that CCRSB, when completing large or emergency projects (i.e. renovation, flood remediation, etc.), have the contractors give parts of the overall project to laid-off CUPE employees. Alternatively, CUPE proposed that if work for the laid-off member could not be made part of the larger project, that CCRSB create equivalent work for the laid-off member.

“CUPE’s proposal is unrealistic, unmanageable and an inefficient use of taxpayers’ dollars,” said Trudy Thompson, CCRSB Board Chair. “Essentially CUPE wants this school board to make work for laid-off employees. We cannot and will not do that.”

According to the CCRSB, binding interest arbitration poses no risk for CUPE should the arbitrator rule for the school board and would retain the current job security provisions of their collective agreement.

The board said their ability to complete major infrastructure projects in a timely and efficient manner would be eroded, resulting in a costly, redundant and inefficient system.

“Our focus is our 20,000 plus students. We have to make decisions, at all levels and in all departments, that ultimately create the best outcome for students,” said Thompson. “We cannot take the risk of the arbitrator ruling for CUPE. The potential impact on our students is too great; we would literally be taking money from students to create work. We won’t do that.”

Should a strike be imminent, CCRSB will take steps to inform all stakeholders, specifically students, parents and guardians to inform them about our plans for managing schools throughout a strike action.

“We want to come to a fair and reasonable agreement with CUPE; we value our bus drivers, custodians and tradespeople very highly. We know they make important contributions, everyday, to our schools and offices,” said Thompson. “Still, our focus has to be on what’s best for students both now and in the long-term.” 

While a representative from CUPE was unreachable for comment at the time of print, Betty Jean Sutherland noted the union’s dismay with a potential strike.

“Frankly, I’m a little bit shocked that they would risk putting more than 400 employees on the street and cause a disruption in services for students when the union has been more than reasonable in its position."

According to Sutherland, if Local 3890 decides to strike, it would start officially on Monday morning, the first day of exams for most students.

john.brannen@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn

Organizations: CUPE, CCRSB Board Chair, Tri-County Regional School Board Annapolis Valley Regional School Board South Shore Regional School Board Strait Regional School Board

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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  • Lorraine Endicott
    January 23, 2014 - 08:14

    A reminder to the chair of our school board, who talks of “taxpayers’ dollars” and the need to “create the best outcome for students”: School bus drivers, custodians and maintenance workers are taxpayers, too. And students who have parents with good, secure, decently-paid jobs is a good “outcome” for our community.