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Timmins area CUPE education workers decry standstill contract negotiations with Catholic school board

Education workers in the Timmins and Timiskaming areas are calling on the Northeast Catholic District School Board (NCDSB) to resume contract negotiations, so that around 160 support workers can receive the $1 wage hike agreed to by the province late last year.

CUPE Local 4681 president Susan Cyr said the board refused her administrative requests and would only return to the bargaining table on the last day of school.

She said the board has been silent.

“It’s frustrating and disappointing that we still haven’t had any communication from the board or trustees on this matter,” said Cyr.

“I have no idea what would be the point of delaying us until June 23rd. It’s just denying the lowest-paid education workers their rate of pay that they deserve.”

The Ministry of Labour assigned a conciliator on March 24th, with the union’s requests for earlier negotiations going unanswered for over two months.

Along with the retroactive wage hike, the workers want more full-time IT staff, an extra vacation day and equal perks for far north workers in Moosonee.

An open letter calling for an immediate return to the negotiations received the signatures of 95 per cent of the local union’s members.

Area New Democrat MPPs John Vanthof and Guy Bourgouin joined federal NDP MP Charlie Angus in voicing support for talks to resume.

“Everyone thought this issue was over but it doesn’t seem to be, so we’re encouraging the board to get back to negotiations with CUPE,” said Vanthof, representing the Timiskaming-Cochrane riding.

“The longer negotiations drag on, the more risk you have of strike action and no one wants to go there.”

With workers like educational assistants, custodians, caretakers, secretaries and others without a contract – many of whom are paid 10 months out of the year and need to apply for employment insurance during the summer months – Cyr worries people’s livelihoods will be affected.

Students and parents may see an impact as well, with 97 per cent of local CUPE members voting to strike, if a deal isn’t reached by the fall.

That would be the first education worker strike in the province this year.

NCDSB sent a statement to CTV, saying:

“The board is committed to reaching a fair agreement with our employees who are represented by CUPE. We will be following the process and working with the conciliator in the near future.”

Cyr feels the asks don’t justify the wait and the silence.

“These three issues that we have outstanding in the table, right now… are necessary and affordable proposals,” said Cyr.

“I don’t understand why there’s such a delay.”

About a quarter of the province’s CUPE locals are still without contracts, including four in the northeast.

CUPE Ontario told CTV News NCDSB is the only board in the region that’s not actively negotiating. Top Stories

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