Cost of living adjustment key issue in boom city
FORT MCMURRAY – The 260 non-teaching staff at Fort McMurray public schools are considering a strike after twice rejecting offers for a new contract.
At issue is the monthly ‘cost of living allowance.’ The school district has offered incentives of $60 per month in the first year of a contract, rising up to $100/month over three years.
But the President of the Alberta Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) says it isn’t enough when you look at the high cost of living in a city experiencing an oil boom.
D’Arcy Lanovaz says that the offer is less than what other public sector employers are offering, noting that the local municipal government is paying $750/month and Keyano College is paying $525/month to hold on to employees.
“The fact is that the school board can’t keep its employees,” said Lanovaz. “The competition for wages is just too severe in Fort McMurray.”
Lanovaz put the blame squarely on the provincial government, saying they have no idea how to deal with Fort McMurray’s growth.
“Funding is not keeping up, and instead of dealing with it – the Premier and Education Minister look like deer caught in the headlights,” said Lanovaz.
CUPE 1505 President Lorna Tollman says employees don’t want to strike, but feel their options are running out.
“We want to work in schools, but we also have to be able to live in this city,” said Tollman. “There is a lot of work elsewhere, and it’s going to draw our members away.”
Tollman said that the starting wage for a custodian at the school district is $16.44, and a starting wage for a teaching assistant is $17.22.
Contact: D’Arcy Lanovaz
President, CUPE Alberta
President, CUPE 1505
For more information about CUPE Alberta, visit www.alberta.cupe.ca