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Hiring 'unqualified, untrained' non-union school workers delaying CUPE strike: president


As a strike among Halifax-area school support workers enters its third week, the union representing them says the province is dragging out the dispute by hiring non-union replacements.

While Quebec and British Columbia have laws against hiring replacement workers during a strike, Nova Scotia doesn’t.

Chris Melanson, president of CUPE Local 5047, said a new deal would likely be in place if the province had similar legislation.

“Not having that legislation here allows employers to bring in unqualified, untrained people to try to attempt to do our jobs,” said Melanson in an interview. “It’s a bit of a Band-Aid effort.”

Educational program assistants (EPA), African student support workers and library staff are among the roughly 1,800 staff members off the job.

Community outreach worker Stephen McCracken says he’s concerned about safety in classrooms.

“EPAs will take on a one-to-one support but they have three, four, five other kids under their wing,” said McCracken.

Hundreds of students depend on classroom support and Louannda Dominix’s daughter is one of them. Dominix said not being able to go to school has been a challenge for her daughter.

“Not just a learning piece, she’s not getting the socialization piece, she’s not getting the friends piece. It’s very hard,” Dominix said. “She keeps asking me why she’s different, what’s wrong with her, 'why can some of my friends go to school and I can’t?'”

Education support staff have been without a contract since July 31, 2020. Melanson wants bargaining talks to resume.

“We went in with an original ask of $2.50 flat rate increase for an hour. Of course, we want conversations to happen so we’re not going to back with that same number. Do we have a bottom line? We’d love to be able to tell government at the table what our bottom line is,” said Melanson.

“We came with an ask to draw members up. We have members that are living in poverty that are not able to deal with the inflation rate, with the cost of rent, groceries, fuel at the pump.”

No talks are scheduled between the union and Halifax Regional Centre for Education.

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