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Limestone District School Board prepares for possible support worker walkout

Limestone District School Board prepares for support worker strike
Limestone District School Board working on a contingency plan in case support workers strike on Monday.

Work-to-rule actions by education support workers across the province only started this week, and now the Ontario School Board Council of Unions has given strike notice.

Unionized support workers could hit the picket line Oct. 7.

READ MORE: Ontario education workers announce full strike action to begin Monday

In the Limestone District School Board, those workers are represented by CUPE Local 1480.

People that could be walking the picket line include educational assistants, early childhood educators, clerical staff and a number of other positions.

CUPE Local 1480 president Dan Jackson says one of the biggest issues still outstanding at the negotiating table is job security.

Workloads increase and and jobs are being eliminated, says Jackson.

“We want to ensure that our members are secure in their positions,” he said, “and that those positions are not only currently held but, as well, increased.”

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The five-day notice now leaves the school board frantically working on a contingency plan, should a walkout occur.

Ontario students caught in middle as union, province fail to reach deal
Ontario students caught in middle as union, province fail to reach deal

Superintendent of Human Resources Andre Labrie will be heavily involved in developing a contingency plan for the upcoming Monday.

“The work over the next couple of days in determining how we will respond to that potential is going to take some time and effort,” Labrie said.

Labrie says closing schools is not the board’s first reaction, but admits it can’t entirely be ruled out.

“That will certainly be part of the conversation, but I don’t want to alarm anybody at this point,” he said. “We will make sure everybody has lots of notice as to what is going to be happening on Monday.”

Labrie says there will have to be several plans developed even if an agreement is reached before the strike deadline.

“There’s a lot of things in the air right now, so we’ll try to make a plan for the worst case and the best case and probably a multiple of things in between,” he said.

Whatever those plans end up being, Labrie says they will be in place before the weekend.

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“We’ll probably have those plans in place well before the end of the day Friday so our system can understand them,” he said.

READ MORE: Ontario education workers announce full strike action to begin Monday

At this point, no further discussions have been planned at the negotiating table, Jackson explained.

“The Ontario School Board Council of Unions has committed to try and bargain a deal over the coarse of the weekend,” he said.

Support workers in Local 1480 won’t picket at every school because of the large geographical size of the school board.

“We’ve picked approximately 10 sites,” Jackson informed Global Kingston.

“The majority of them are secondary schools. As well, we have the board office.”