TRURO - The sun may be shining but the CUPE Local 3890 members are still marching on in cold temperatures as their strike against the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board enters its second day.
While hundreds were outside the school board offices on Monday, the numbers outside the office on Lorne Street, as well as the Cobequid Educational Centre, is around two dozen.
CUPE Local 3890 president Ron Davis said picketers are also at Central Colchester Junior High School and Bible Hill Junior High School in the Truro area.
"We don't have enough membership to be at each school every day," said Davis. "We have about eight to 10 on each line, working in shifts."
He said the union made the decision not to picket outside any of the elementary schools within the board.
"The younger students may get intimidated and we don't want to scare them," Davis said. "We'll mainly be sticking to the high schools."
Union members voted on Sunday to reject the school board's latest offer. The main issue within the negotiations is contracting work out. Local 3890 contains approximately 450 custodians, bus drivers and maintenance workers within the school board.
Due to the strike, buses have been taken off the roads, cleaning is down to a minimum and all extra-curricular activities have been suspended for the duration of the strike.
Davis said there aren't any meetings planned with the school board for Tuesday, however the union committee will be meeting with its national representative.
The Colchester RCMP issued a press release late Monday night advising motorists to use extra caution and patience near schools during the strike.
"The ongoing labour dispute between the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board (CCRSB) and CUPE has resulted in long delays around some Colchester County schools due to increased traffic congestion," the release reads. "There is potential for future delays due to picketing around school property by CUPE members."
Increased traffic congestion was observed on Monday primarily during student drop off and pick up, which has potential for tempers to rise and motorists to make mistakes.
"Colchester RCMP ask parents, the public, students and staff to use caution when driving and walking in and near school areas," it continues.
The release also includes some tips to try and minimize traffic disruptions:
- Whenever possible car pool.
- Stagger drop off and pickup time.
- Use off-site drop off and pickup locations.
- Give yourself extra time to deal with any potential delays.
- When approaching a picket line, treat it like an intersection. Come to a complete stop and proceed only when safe to do so.
- Be patient. Being delayed is a minor inconvenience. When you rush you increase your risk of a crash.
By mid-Tuesday morning, Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River MLA Lenore Zann also issued a press release with her concerns about the strike and how it is affecting families and students, especially with high school exams that started the same day the strike began.
"Parents and guardians of 17,000 students who regularly use the bus to attend 76 different schools in our region are scrambling to make alternate arrangements," Zann is quoted as saying in the release. "Last week I suggested that alternate options should be explored and announced earlier by the Minister of Education to reduce the burden of the strike on families in our school board region. That didn't happen."
Zann says she has been contacted by some parents in her constituency who don't own vehicles, and some families can't afford to pay for an extra tank of gas to transport their children to and from school.
"What happens to their children - especially with exams beginning (Monday)? Will make-up dates for missed exams be offered?"
The MLA also said the strike is impacting everyone, not just those taking the bus.
"The school board has also adjusted the opening and closing times of schools, which means students who might have been dropped off early or picked up later are without a place to go. It's not just about inconvenience, it's about safety," she said.
Zann hopes an agreement will be reached soon, so things can return to normal.
"Because when all is said and done, it is all about the children," she said.