Prairie South School Division support staff threatening strike

Support staff at Prairie South School Division have voted in favour of taking job action. Prairie South Schools

Support staff at the Prairie South School Division (PSSD) have taken a step towards job action, voting 95.7 per cent in favour of striking.

Members of the CUPE Local 5512, which is made up of 422 members from the division, voted to withdraw their services. The union says what’s on the line for them are long service benefits and the threat of an impending wage freeze.

“The employer is coming after a long-standing retirement benefit, pushing a wage freeze in the first two years of the agreement, and trying to divide us by offering deals that hurt some of us more than others,” said Dave Stevenson, CUPE national representative.

“The message we heard from our membership was loud and clear. We are standing united against these concessions and minuscule wage offers. We deserve and demand more respect than the employer has been showing us.”

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The 422 members are made up of school bus drivers, facility operators, head facility operators, maintenance workers, education assistants I and II, administrative assistants, library assistants, library technicians, and tradespersons.

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The union says PSSD is “trying to eliminate the members’ long service recognition benefit and replace it with inferior retirement gratuity language.”

“We’ve negotiated this important benefit into our contract, and taking it away would negatively impact about 142 of our members immediately. Everyone else who retires from now on after at least 14 years of service will be affected by this cut too,” Stevenson said.

“The school division is also pushing a wage offer well below increases to the cost of living.

The vote is as far as the action has gone; there are no in-progress plans for job action. The bargaining committee is set to take the employer’s last offer back to the membership to vote on in September, but according to the union, the committee plans to recommend its members vote to reject it.

Stevenson says the union plans to hold their ground to stop the impending changes.

“We won’t let them divide us; we won’t let them insult us, and we won’t let them attack our retirement,” said Stevenson.

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“This strike vote shows that we are ready to fight for a fair collective agreement.”

There are 39 schools in the Prairie South School Division in 19 rural and urban communities.

Global News has reached out for comment from the division.

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