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Picket line outside of La Citadelle

Nick Seebruch

Published on February 10, 2017

Local CUPE 4155 workers picketing outside La Citadelle in Cornwall on Friday, February 10 (Nick Seebruch/ TC Media).

CORNWALL, Ontario - Members of CUPE local 4155 were outside La Citadelle on Friday, Feb. 10 as a part of a strike against the Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l'Est ontarien (CSDCEO).

CUPE 4155 represents support workers in the French Catholic board including janitors, library and IT technicians, and administrative support staff.

The union began their strike on Tuesday morning after they say that the CSDCEO refused to meet with them.

For their part, the CSDCEO have said that they do not want a labour dispute and have offered to meet with the union on Tuesday, but that they were the ones who were snubbed.

François Turpin, Director of Education and Secretary of the CSDCEO claims that there are inconsistencies between what his side has offered CUPE and what they have told their members.

CUPE 4155 President Raymond Giroux has said that his union has done all it can to work with the school board to avoid a strike.

"We are faced with an employer that insists on standing alone in the province in its failure to bargain, and so we have arrived at job action," he said. "We are ready to return to the table, and we've advised the board of that, but we are still awaiting their call. Our message to parents is this: we would rather be on the job, keeping schools clean and safe. Please call your trustees and tell them you want to see the board back at the table, concluding these talks with a fair deal."

In a conversation with the Seaway News CUPE's Communications Officer Mary Unan said that the union was concerned how staff cuts and an introduction of split shifts for support workers would affect student health and safety at CSDCEO schools.

"With split shifts, if a janitor works in the morning, is gone for hours and then returns for their late shift, there is no one to clean up the school or a classroom if a student is sick during that time," she said.

CSDCEO schools have remained open during the strike and the school board has hired replacement workers, a move that Giroux strongly objects.

"They had replacement workers hired on the first day of the strike," said Raymond Giroux, President of Local 4155. "We see now why they refused to meet with us on Monday, the day before the strike began: they were more interested in hiring contractors to do our jobs, and in renting a bus to deliver their managers past the picket line."