WHITECOURT – Members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees employed as support staff at Catholic schools in Slave Lake, Edson and Whitecourt have served strike notice to their employer after a vote held last week.
The support staff employed by Living Waters Catholic Schools have been in bargaining since 2016. The staff have been fighting for a fair contract but their efforts have been stymied by an employer unwilling to move on important issues such as stable scheduling, compensation that begins to address the rising cost of living, and defined hours of work.
The union served strike notice on the employer Monday morning, meaning support staff will be in a position to legally strike on Friday, Sept. 28.
“Our goal is always to reach a negotiated deal at the table, but the employer has unfortunately forced us into this situation. Support staff at Living Waters are simply asking for their employer to treat them fairly by properly compensating them for the very important work they do supporting our students,” said AUPE Vice-President Rod Feland. “Some of these members have had to resort to using the food bank to support their families and make ends meet. Meanwhile, the school board started 2016 with an operating surplus. Clearly, this doesn’t add up.”
Members of AUPE who work at the six Living Waters schools include educational assistants, typists, custodians, secretaries, library clerks, maintenance workers and financial assistants.
These support staff are being asked to do more with less, as hours are being cut and class sizes continue to grow. These members are working unstable hours, which is depriving students of a consistent routine and the resources they need to excel in a safe and supportive learning environment, Feland added.
“Our members are dedicated to their work and to the students they support on a daily basis. When our members are treated with fairness and respect, everyone benefits, but especially the students who depend on their support. It’s time for Living Waters Catholic Schools to show they are invested in student success by ensuring support staff are treated fairly,” Feland said.
AUPE is Alberta’s largest union, representing more than 93,000 members across the province.