By Darrell Cole TC Media
TRURO – More than 400 CUPE bus drivers, custodians and tradespeople at the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board have ratified a settlement in their contract talks.
"Local 3890 and the board, with the assistance of mediator Bruce Outhouse, have agreed to language on the single outstanding issue, which was contracting out," CUPE’s national representative Betty Jean Sutherland said in a news release on Monday.
Sutherland said the employees ratified the deal by 88 per cent in a vote late last week.
"It's also worth noting that this settlement was freely negotiated by both parties, with no threat of legislation hanging over our heads. This is the way collective bargaining is supposed to happen, without interference from a provincial government that seems intent on tilting the balance in favour of employers," said Sutherland.
Bus drivers, custodians and tradespeople within the school staged a one-day strike in late January before agreeing to sit down with the provincially-appointed mediator.
The strike left many of the board’s 20,000 students looking for another way to classes 100 or so buses were pulled off the road.
It also resulted in the temporary cancellation of extra-curricular activities and made schools unavailable for non-school groups during the work stoppage.
Just before the strike, the sides were far apart on the contracting out issue with the board’s chairwoman saying the union expected the board to make work for laid-off employees – something it was not prepared to do.
CUPE suggested binding arbitration to settle the impasse, but the board rejected the proposal made as a final attempt to avert the strike.
Local 3890 president Ron Davis said the membership is pleased with the mediated settlement and thanked his membership for their strong support and patience “as we worked to resolve the thorny issue of contracting out."
Board spokeswoman Debbie Buott-Matheson said the school board is expected to ratify the settlement at its April meeting on Wednesday night.
Because of that, she said she is unable to get into specifics as to how the contracting out issue was settled.
“It’s good for us and good for the employees that we will be able to put this behind us,” Buott-Matheson said.
The new deal expires in 2015.