UPDATE: Two-day strike ends; union, board agree to mediation

John Brannen
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The picket lines are silent this morning, replaced with the sounds of school buses and custodians hard at work.

Members of CUPE Local 3890 picketed at NNEC Tuesday morning as the strike went into its second day. While union members were out in full force throughout schools in the county, by 1 p.m. the union and school board had agree to government mediation, ending the strike. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS

Less than 48 hours into a strike, members of CUPE Local 3890 and the Chignecto Central Regional School Board agreed to a government appointed mediator, ending the strike.

Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan, at the request of Education Minister Karen Casey, appointed veteran mediator Bruce Outhouse to help in contract negotiations between CCRSB and CUPE.

“Everything returns to normal today,” said Debbie Buott-Matheson, CCRSB communications manager.

Both sides announced the end of the strike around 1 p.m. yesterday and the union has agreed to go back to work while mediation is underway, effective today.

Bus service will resume tomorrow morning to limit further disruption for students in the region.

“There were papers going back and forth yesterday between the board and the union but no signatures up until that point,” said Buott-Matheson. “Several custodians returned to work yesterday but I think what was most exciting is the return of regular extracurricular activities.”

During the strike, all busing within the school board stopped, all building maintenance was performed on an emergency basis only and schools were open only 60 minutes ahead of the start of the school day and only 60 minutes after the final bell. These restrictions have been rescinded.

CUPE National Representative Betty Jean Sutherland said she would have preferred binding arbitration to mediation, a non-binding process.

“But I have the utmost confidence, in Mr. Outhouse to move things forward,” said Sutherland. “It comes down to the one outstanding issue, which is contracting-out language.”

Picketing continued Tuesday morning at the board’s head office in Truro while more picketing took place in Pictou County at W. A. MacLeod and North Nova Education Centre. Sutherland was proud of the determination that union members showed as the strike moved into its second day.

“We went out on the picket lines and I asked them to be there at 8 a.m.,” she said. “They were starting to line up at 7 a.m. As they did their thing, myself and a few others were revving up to try and get talks going again.”

Several supporters stopped by or called including the president of the Federation of Labour, NSGEU and the NSTU.

While several press releases were sent out from both groups, Sutherland found the tone and language in the board’s releases misleading.

“I found some of the statements offensive because they picked on one phrase out of a one-page article, that is to create work for laid-off employees,” she said. “This was one of many possibilities and options and it wasn’t our firm position.”

Local 3890 President Ron Davis said he was pleased with the outcome.

“I want to personally thank Local 3890 members for their strong support, as well as students and parents for their patience and understanding as we reached this agreement,” he said.

According to Regan, a mediator will provide support to the parties, and bring fresh perspective to the negotiations.

"Outhouse has extensive experience dealing with these types of disputes at both the regional and national levels, and I'm pleased he's able to help the parties."

Matheson said they all could share in the positive developments yesterday.

“Certainly, we head into mediation with the same challenges we had before, but in the meantime, the buses are rolling, custodians are working and students are getting an education.”

 

john.brannen@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn 

Organizations: Chignecto Central Regional School Board, North Nova Education Centre, Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Truro, Pictou County

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