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Custodial staff at one Manitoba school division set to take strike action

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Custodial staff members at one Manitoba school division are set to begin strike action next week.

The Seine River School Division staff members, who are part of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) Local 143, have given formal notice that they plan to begin strike action at 8 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 12.

According to the MGEU, these 47 staff members have been working with an expired contract since July 2021. These workers are looking for wage increases that would help them keep up with the rising cost of living.

In a news release, MGEU president Kyle Ross said custodial staff work hard to ensure students have clean and safe working environments.

“They are key players on the education team, and they should be treated with respect and fairness,” he said.

“That includes fair wage increases that help all members catch up and keep up with the rising cost of living.”

MGEU notes that the school division’s current offer would provide custodial staff with general wage increases of 9.8 per cent over four years, which would amount to about a $2 over the life of the agreement.

MGEU Local 143 voted to reject this offer on Dec. 9, 2023, and voted in favour of strike action on Dec. 23.

According to Ross, the union has agreed to engage a conciliator to help reach an agreement, but the bargaining committee believes strike action is necessary.

“This division can afford fair wages that close the already massive gap between wages for these workers and their counterparts next door in Winnipeg,” he said.

“We know a deal can be reached at the table. We proved that with many groups this past year.

School division responds

In a statement, the school division said it is committed to resolving the issues at the bargaining table, adding that both the union and division have agreed to conciliation proceedings.

The school division said that is has offered a fair compensation package that is in line with wage increases recently negotiated with other employee groups. It added that its proposal included market adjustments for daytime custodians, a continuation of a shift premium for evening custodians and annual percentage increases.

The Seine River School Division said it has taken steps to minimize the impact of the strike on daily operations. This includes contracting workers to provide temporary services.

The division also encourages all students, staff and visitors to help maintain a safe environment.

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