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Letter: Union asks trustees to take steps to help end school district support staff strike

To the Editor: Let’s call it a last-ditch effort. The union and membership want to leave no stone unturned in our attempts to avoid a strike with the School District of Mystery Lake; with that, our frustration is exceedingly high.
school district of mystery lake office

To the Editor:

Let’s call it a last-ditch effort. The union and membership want to leave no stone unturned in our attempts to avoid a strike with the School District of Mystery Lake; with that, our frustration is exceedingly high.

I feel that I need to express the cause of this frustration. For four years the school district has hidden behind Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s Bill 28, which has since been struck down in the courts as unconstitutional, in attempts to suppresses their employees’ rights to bargain a fair contract. Yet they are requesting support to fight Pallister’s Bill 64 that may force the amalgamation of school districts. How is it that the bill that affects the union and workers is perfectly acceptable, yet the bill that affects the trustees and superintendent needs the union’s support to fight? We all should be fighting both these bills together. When the chair of the board of trustees writes a letter in opposition to Bill 64, she should also be doing the same for Bill 28.

This membership has struggled through the last four years in which cost of living has risen around 11 per cent. They, like everyone else, have endured the chaos of the pandemic and in many cases, based on the needs of operations, been subjected to potentially harmful situations. They have done so with mounting pressures from their employer who has continually demanded more for less, whether it be through denying access to employee entitled leaves, or cutting positions and adding those duties to other already-stretched workloads, or moving non-teaching staff into teaching roles without compensating them properly or having adequate training and education to do so to the detriment of teachers, non-teaching staff and students. These are but a few examples of the ever-mounting pressure placed on the membership at the schools and this is prior to adding the dynamics of the exasperating bargaining process.

When you compile the wage suppression and lack of the trustees’ willingness to meet and negotiate a fair contract with the disrespect that has and is occurring during the bargaining process, the membership is at a loss on how to productively move forward. The union is reluctantly using the last option they have. At almost 11 per cent in the rise of cost living, and the members not making any gains whatsoever, they have basically taken a pay cut that is more severe as time moves forward. As we move forward through this pandemic, they actually have less buying power with their paycheques that they did in 2017. This isn’t even the most frustrating part!

It’s the lack of respect this membership from the board of trustees, the Manitoba school division rep, the secretary-treasurer and superintendents by not being available to meet and bargain a fair contract.

The union has reached out to every trustee seeking assistance or at least communication to understand their position on why they have chosen not to meet and bargain a fair agreement and are awaiting a response. The union understands the trustees feel some pressure of retaliation from the failing Manitoba Conservative government and the Manitoba School Board Association, but trust they will at some point make the right decision that is not only in the best interest of the union and the board but also the best interest of the community and children.

It would have been far more respectful to have met, put down their phones, put aside their selfish positions, and looked our committee in the eyes and said, “No,” rather than leave everyone in the dark while they are on vacations and leaves, completely ignoring the union, the membership, and the community’s needs.

To the trustees of the School District of Mystery Lake – Lindsay Anderson (landerson@mysterynet.mb.ca), Guido Oliveira (goliveira@mysterynet.mb.ca), Saima Aziz (saziz@mysterynet.mb.ca), Li Cripps (lcripps@mysterynet.mb.ca), Don Macdonald (dmacdonald@mysterynet.mb.ca), Michelle Tomashewski (mtomashewski@mysterynet.mb.ca) and Leslie Tucker (ltucker@mysterynet.mb.ca) – please do the right thing.

 

Matt Winterton

United Steelworkers

District 3 Staff Representative