Custodians in the Seine River School Division have taken to the picket lines after rejecting a contract offer in December.
The 47 custodial staff are represented by the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, which states that this group has been working with an expired contract since July 2021.
MGEU states that members are focused on negotiating wage increases.
“Custodial staff work hard to ensure our kids have clean and safe learning environments,” said MGEU President Kyle Ross. “They are key players on the education team, and they should be treated with respect and fairness. That includes fair wage increases that help all members catch up and keep up with the rising cost of living.”
The Seine River School Division indicates they believe a fair and competitive compensation package was offered which “reflects the market for comparable school divisions and is in line with the wage increases recently negotiated with other employee groups. The Division’s most recent proposal includes market adjustments for daytime custodians, a continuation of a shift premium for evening custodians, and annual percentage increases of 3% (2021), 2% (2022), 2% (2023), and 2.5% (2024).”
The union reports the wage increase would amount to about a $2 increase over the agreement's life, adding that members voted to reject this offer on December 9, 2023, and voted overwhelming for strike action on December 23, 2023.
Both sides were at the bargaining table last week and MGEU reports that there were no changes to the offer that its members had rejected in December.
In an update posted to its website, MGEU indicated that the school division should be able to offer a bigger wage increase, stating, “SRSD recently learned it will receive a 5.8% funding increase from the province this year, but still, it’s offering its custodial staff average annual wage increases of just 2.45% per year, less than half of the funding increase it will receive."
“This division can afford fair wages that close the already massive gap between wages for these workers and their counterparts next door in Winnipeg,” added Ross. “We know a deal can be reached at the table. We proved that with many groups this past year. That’s why we have agreed to engage a conciliator to help reach an agreement. Having said that, our bargaining committee believes strike action is necessary because the division has refused to change the unfair offer that members already rejected in December.”
While custodians are striking, the school division has secured temporary workers to take on the custodial duties.
“While some disruption of services may occur during this time, the Division has taken proactive measures to minimize the impact on its daily operations. The Division has contracted Express Employment Professionals to provide temporary services for the duration of the strike. These temporary workers, both daytime and evening staff, will undertake tasks typically performed by custodial staff,” SRSD reports.
The Seine River School Division is extending an invitation to all current custodial staff to continue reporting to work during the strike, should they choose to do so.