PRINCE ALBERT — After extensive negotiations, CUPE 4875, the union representing education support workers in the North East School Division (NESD), has announced that a bargaining impasse has been reached.
The union and the school division will now be undertaking mandatory mediation as per the Saskatchewan Employment Act.
Two tentative agreements were rejected by the membership. The biggest outstanding issue is wages and the recruitment and retention issue many classifications are facing.
“Education support workers play an invaluable role in our education system, providing vital assistance and support to students and teachers alike. It is disheartening that their dedication and hard work have not been adequately recognized, with years passing without a significant wage increase,” said Debbie Dufault, president of CUPE 4875 and an education assistant with the North East School Division, in a press release.
“With the rising cost of living, our current wages are untenable and undermine the vital contributions these workers make to the success of our schools. We are seeing an impact on our ability to recruit and retain staff. Why work as a certified educational assistant for North East School Division for $21.42 an hour when you can go do the same job at Sask. Rivers School Division for $27.08?”
CUPE 4875 said in the release that they want fair compensation for education support workers. Dufault said that over the last 10 years, wages have been stagnant. Between the rising cost of living and years of meager wage increases, education support workers have experienced a loss of purchasing power of 10 percent.
“CUPE 4875 remains committed to engaging in constructive dialogue with the North East School Division in order to reach a fair and equitable resolution. We are eager to resume negotiations with a skilled mediator and find a path forward that recognizes the value of education support workers and addresses our long-standing wage concerns, “Janice Janzen, CUPE National Representative said.
In the press release, CUPE 4875 said there is no threat of job action in the near future, though a strike vote may be considered if mediation fails.