Parents, students wait as talks to avert strike stretch into Sunday

Parents, students wait as talks to avert strike stretch into Sunday

Parents and students in the province faced continuing uncertainty Sunday, as talks between the union representing 55,000 educational support staff and the province stretched into the afternoon in a bid to reach a deal to avert a strike on Monday.

CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) and the province returned to the table late Friday afternoon and have bargained all weekend.

CUPE began a work-to-rule last Monday to put pressure on the province and school board associations in negotiations.

Two days later, on Wednesday, CUPE announced that its members — who include caretakers, early childhood educators, educational assistants and office staff — would walk off the job Monday morning if talks faltered.

Families have since been scrambling to find care or “strike camp” for their children, not knowing what is to come — nor how much notice they will get.

“The talks between the parties are aimed at ending education workers’ current job action, which will escalate to full strike on Monday, October 7 if no deal can be reached (Sunday),” CUPE said in a written statement late Saturday.

“The parties have agreed to a media blackout for the duration of negotiations in order to focus on reaching a settlement.”

Laura Walton, who heads CUPE’s school board council, told the Star earlier Friday that she would speak to her team about giving parents as much notice as possible.

The government has said one of the key issues is sick leave and how it leads to a “revolving door” of staff in schools. The province had previously announced a one-per-cent cap on public sector raises.

The union is seeking what it calls “service security” — or job security and consistent hours for staff to serve children, especially those with special needs. Hundreds of CUPE workers were laid off across the province as school boards balanced their books amid cutbacks.

CUPE has also said it would not accept any concessions.

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Kristin Rushowy

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