Ministry of Education’s wage mandate unfair

REGINA: CUPE, the union that represents the majority of education support workers in the province, is ready to fight the Ministry of Education’s mandate to roll back wages for education workers by 3.5 per cent with a three year freeze.

“The government is punishing the poorest workers while ignoring the basic principles of labour relations, which is that we reach a negotiated collective agreement at the bargaining table,” said Tom Graham, president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “This is an assault on our rights to collectively bargain under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and flies in the face of current labour law. The premier and his government need to know that CUPE will vigorously demand our members’ rights and their collective agreements as well as fight for adequate funding to the K-12 education system.”

Support workers in the education system are some of the lowest paid public servants. The average wage for CUPE members in education is $22,000 a year. The government mandate represents a 9.5 per cent reduction in spending power for workers over three years.

“A 3.5 per cent rollback with three years of freezes means that many members will be below the poverty line,” said Jackie Christianson, chair of the CUPE Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “Many members are already struggling to make ends meet before this budget’s increase to the PST. Any rollback in wages or hours of work will hurt the working families of Saskatchewan.”

The wage mandate comes on top of a $54.2 million reduction in K-12 education funding from the provincial government and significant changes to The Education Act, which take away autonomy from locally elected school boards.

“Many school divisions are being forced to cut important programming and reduce staffing levels. This government’s budget is hurting our children, especially as programs and staffing for students with enhanced needs seem to be the first to be cut,” said Christianson.

“This government needs to step up to the plate and properly fund our education system. Investing in our children is investing in the future of this province,” said Christianson. “If you are concerned about the impacts this budget will have on children, please contact the premier and your MLA.”

CUPE represents over 7,000 education support workers in 25 locals in 20 school divisions. Each local negotiates its collective agreement with its school division, and many contracts are currently up for negotiations.

Education workers from across the province will be gathering at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12 at the Legislative Building in Regina to join parents to protest cuts to education.