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Strikes force NFSB schools to close

All New Frontiers School Board (NFSB) elementary and secondary schools will be closed for the entire day on May 19 due to a planned strike by members of the Federation des professionnelles et professionels de l’éducation (FPPE), which represents over 10,000 education professionals. Students attending adult education or vocational centres will be able to resume classes at noon.

NFSB director general Rob Buttars says the board had no choice but to close schools within the youth sector in reaction to the announced strike. The timing of the protest — from midnight to noon — rendered transportation impossible, and the NFSB respects that employees belonging to other unions will refuse to cross picket lines in support of their coworkers.

In letters sent home to families, principals recognized that “already difficult times were being made more difficult,” while assuring parents the board is working to support student learning as best it can as the negotiation process continues.

 

Support staff at Heritage Elementary School in Huntingdon demonstrated outside the building on May 11. PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

Employees with the NFSB belong to four different unions, of which three are currently in a legal position to strike. The half-day strike announced by the FPPE will be the fourth time classes will be interrupted this spring by protest action. Education professionals, support staff and teachers, all of whom are negotiating with the provincial government, say the strikes are necessary in order for their voices to be heard.

Buttars acknowledges more strike days may be called. “We are hopeful they are going to reach a deal,” he says, noting that despite the interruptions, the relationship between the board and its employees remains cordial. “We all have to be able to work with the common goal of student success,” he says.

Support staff strike May 11

Support staff at all NFSB schools walked off the job on May 11 in protest of stalled contract talks. “We are asking the government to recognize our members,” says Bonnie Gilmour, the interim local president of SEPB 576, which includes members from the NFSB. “Many are working split shifts, 10 months of the year and on average less than 20 hours a week,” she explains.

Gilmour notes that many members, while playing an integral role within our schools, are currently living below the poverty line. “It is not only about the money. We are also looking for job security.”

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