Strike affecting school workers hits Pictou County

John Brannen
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Hundreds of CUPE Local 3890’s members were out in full force at the Chignecto Central Regional School Board (CCRSB) head office in Truro Monday, as the strike of 450 bus drivers, tradespeople and custodians continues. 

Parents, guardians and friends drop off students at North Nova Education Centre as the strike of 450 bus drivers, tradespeople and custodians has left bus services paralyzed. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS

The union voted to reject the school board’s last offer Sunday night.

Dozens and dozens of cars wheeled in and out of the North Nova Education Centre parking lot, dropping off carloads of students. No bus service means parents, guardians and friends must take students to school across the county.

“We asked CUPE, out of respect for our high school students, to hold their strike until the end of exam week,” said Trudy Thompson, CCRSB board chair. “These exam results will have a bearing for many Grade 12 students on post-secondary applications, scholarships and bursaries. CUPE denied that request.”

As a result of the strike, all busing within the school board will stop, all building maintenance will be performed on an emergency basis only and schools will be open only 60 minutes ahead of the start of the school day and only 60 minutes after the final bell.

Extracurricular activities and non-school groups are being affected as well, with schools and offices no longer available for use.

CUPE’s job action coincides with the start of exams for high school students across the board. Exams will go ahead as normal. Any questions about exam schedules may be directed to the respective high school principals. 

Cleaning services within schools will be restricted to night and weekend work. CCRSB managers and non-union staff will fulfil these duties; this will be reassessed depending on how long the strike lasts. Health and safety for students and staff is a priority as the strike progresses.

“We want to come to a fair and reasonable agreement with CUPE,” said Thompson, “Still, our students have to be our top priority. Our focus needs to be on educating the students in our care.”

Thompson noted in a press release that using valuable time and money on make-work projects would take the school board in the wrong direction for students.   

Pictou Centre MLA education critic Pat Dunn said the provincial government has a responsibility to ensure all students get to school safely despite the strike.

"Students and families deserve answers," said Dunn. "Social media sites are buzzing with parents worried about how they will get their children to school and the impact of the strike on the students' education.

Dunn recalled Education Minister Karen Casey’s plan in 2008 when there was a threat of a bus strike in the Halifax Regional School Board.

"We will make sure that students get to school," Casey told the CBC in 2008. "We have neighbouring provinces that if in a crisis we can go there…"

He feels Casey should be making sure the students in the CCRSB get to school safely.

Dunn said that while all families will feel the impact, he is especially concerned about the Grade 12 students who are writing exams this week.

"As a teacher and a parent myself, I know this set of exam marks are crucial for students applying to university and college and for scholarships," he said. "These are the very young people we are counting on to grow our province and our economy, yet many of them don't know how they will even get to school tomorrow.”

Casey was unavailable for comment at press time.

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn

Organizations: CUPE, North Nova Education Centre, CCRSB board Halifax Regional School Board CBC

Geographic location: Pictou County

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