Education workers gather in North Battleford to talk about issues in K-12 sector

NORTH BATTLEFORD: Education workers from around the province will be gathering in North Battleford for the annual CUPE Education Workers’ Steering Committee Conference to discuss some of the urgent issues in the education sector.

Over 50 people will participate in three days of discussions on a variety of topics, including funding cuts in education, workplace health and safety, and trends in bargaining.

“Investing in our children is investing in the future of Saskatchewan. But the current trends in education funding paint a troubling picture,” said Jackie Christianson, president of the CUPE Saskatchewan Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “This conference will provide an opportunity to hear about the impact cuts are having on our children and to hear about a range of issues facing education support workers.”

WHEN: October 13 to 15, 2016

WHERE: Gold Eagle Lodge, 12004 Railway Ave. E., North Battleford, Saskatchewan

Conference Highlights:

  • Ian Hamilton, Mayor of North Battleford (Thursday, 1:00 p.m.)
  • Mark Hancock, CUPE national president (Thursday, 1:00 p.m.)
  • Patrick Maze, Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president (Thursday, 1:00 p.m.)
  • Darren McKee, Saskatchewan School Boards Association executive director (Friday, 9:00 a.m.)
  • Carla Beck, NDP education critic (Friday, 9:15 a.m.)
  • Provincial overview of funding cuts and impacts (Friday, 10:45 a.m.)
  • Tom Graham, CUPE Saskatchewan president (Saturday, 9:30 a.m.)

CUPE represents 7,000 support workers in pre-K-12 education in Saskatchewan, including educational assistants, facility operators, administrative assistants, clerical assistants, secretaries, school bus drivers, caretakers, maintenance workers, library assistants, nutrition coordinators, information technicians, social workers, counsellors, community school coordinators, interpreters, speech and language assistants, and other school support workers.

CUPE education workers launch provincial campaign about underfunding in education

REGINA: CUPE has launched a province-wide campaign to raise awareness of the funding challenges in K-12 education.

The campaign is called “Where’s the funding?” and features billboardsmedia_release_photo_2016_09_29, a website, and a postcard campaign.

“Investing in our children is investing in the future of Saskatchewan. But the current trends in education funding paint a troubling picture of our government’s pr
iorities,” said Jackie Christianson, chairperson of CUPE Saskatchewan’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “Most school divisions are experiencing budget shortfalls, and it is our children who are feeling the impact.”

In several school divisions, cuts are already having an impact on sta
ffing levels. Both Saskatchewan Rivers School Division and Good Spirit School Division cut staffing hours. Prairie South School Division laid off over 30 staff, and Prairie Spirit School Division laid off over 60 full time equivalent educational assistants. In addition, other school divisions, like Regina Public School Division, are resorting to other methods to bring in money, such as charging parents for lunchtime supervision.

“Budget cuts have real consequences for children, placing both the quality of education and the safety of children and workers at enormous risk,” said Christianson. “A decrease in support staff will diminish the quality of education for all students. Chil
dren who require additional support will struggle in school if they don’t have access to the support.”

The provincial government is also doing more to hamper school boards than to help. Earlier this year the government made the unprecedented announcement t
hat school boards would be on the hook for half of the 18 million dollar wage increase the Ministry of Education signed with teachers. School divisions were told they would have to
“find savings.”

Recently, the Workers’ Compensation Board made the decision to give rebates to all employers in the province who pay into the fund. The Government of Saskatchewan responded by clawing back those funds from the provincial operating grants of every school division, even though private schools were able to keep their rebate.

The provincial government has also been musing about school board mergers and restructuring, which is creating uncertainty for parents, staff, and school boards.

“Our government must invest adequate funding in education to allow school divisions access to the required resources, ensuring all Saskatchewan children’s rights to a quality, safe, and healthy education,” added Christianson.

CUPE concerned with reduction of hours for educational assistants at Good Spirit School Division

Good Spirit School Division is the latest school division to feel the impacts of the provincial government’s underfunding of education.

In order to help balance the books, the school division is reducing the hours of work per day of over 50 educational assistants and not renewing over 20 temporary positions.

The union is worried about the impact this will have not only on members but also on students.

“Educational assistants are an integral part of the school-based team. We feel strongly that all the hours we work makes a difference to students and provides a quality learning environment,” said Karla Sastaunik, president of CUPE Local 4784. “These reductions of hours will be felt in the classroom, and that is troublesome.”

All educational assistants working 6 hours or more per day have been reduced to 5.75 hours per day. While this provides bell to bell coverage, it does not take into account students who have needs before and after school and conferencing between educational assistants and/or teachers.

“Caring for our students does not end when the bell rings. We are there when a student arrives, helping them off the bus and to get settled into the school day. At the end of the day, we make sure students get safely on the bus and home with all of their homework and belongings,” said Sastaunik.

Over half of the school divisions across the province are experiencing budget shortfalls, due to both stagnating funding and the provincial government’s refusal to fully fund the contract it signed with teachers.

“It is not fair that our children are being asked to face the consequences of this government’s decision to cut funding,” added Sastaunik. “Every student deserves access to the classroom support he or she needs, and our government needs to step up to the plate and invest in our children.”

CUPE Local 4784 represents support staff in several classifications at Good Spirit School Division, including educational assistants, library technicians, administrative assistants, nutrition workers, maintenance workers, caretakers, and mechanics.

CUPE 4254 launches post card campaign against education cuts

CUPE 4254 has launched a public awareness campaign about the impacts that significant cuts to Prairie Spirit School Division will have on the quality of education and services for our children.

Prairie Spirit School Division is facing a $3 million budget shortfall, which will result in the layoff of at least 60 full time equivalent educational associates.

“These cuts mean less support in the classroom for students who are struggling. With less support for vulnerable students, all students feel the consequences,” said Grace Wudrick, president of CUPE 4254.  Children in Saskatchewan deserve better from their government.”

The Saskatchewan Government’s funding formula has resulted in Prairie Spirit being one of the lowest funded in the province – despite the growth in the region. The 2014/15 school year marks the ninth consecutive year of enrollment growth, with over 10,300 students in Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12. News that the government is refusing to fund the full cost of the pay raise they negotiated with teachers means that Prairie Spirit is facing even more of a financial crush.

“These funding cuts not only hurt students, but layoffs will have a serious impact on workers and their families. We are talking about over 60 families who are losing an income,” said Wudrick. “That means more families in our communities struggling to make ends meet. Some long term employees who have been with the division for ten years or more will no longer have jobs. The division has also eliminated the library assistant positions, resulting in three layoffs, one being a twenty-three year employee.”

The first step of the campaign is a public mail out to over 12,000 homes in the Prairie Spirit School Division catchment area. From there, the local is asking concerned citizens to contact their MLA and Premier Brad Wall.

“Every student deserves access to the classroom support he or she needs. If you are concerned about the impact the funding formula will have on your children, make your voice heard,” said Wudrick.

CUPE 4254 represents 394 workers in Prairie Spirit School Division, including educational associates, admin assistants, executive assistants, caretakers, bus drivers, computer techs, network administrators, bus technicians and maintenance personnel.

CUPE reacts to more Prairie South School Division cuts

CUPE Local 5512 is disappointed that Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, SK and neighbouring rural communities, has decided to cut more frontline staff. The most recent layoffs include the remaining school assistants, two social workers, and the SIRS helpdesk technician position.

“It is shocking to us that Prairie South School Division is looking at more cuts to frontline staff before cutting administrative costs at all or freezing hiring for management,” said Dale Smith, president of CUPE Local 5512. “These workers make a difference in the day to day lives of students. Every position cut is a loss for our children.”

These layoffs come on the heels of an additional 25 workers who were let go last month.

“This is incredibly difficult for some of our members who just survived one round of layoffs,” added Smith. “They thought they had some job security, just to be laid off again a month later.”

CUPE Local 5512 is encouraging community members with concerns about what these layoffs will mean for students to contact the school board trustees. You can learn more and take action at

Understanding the layoffs:

School assistants are a position unique to Moose Jaw.  The two remaining school assistant positions had a different role.  These two were responsible for verification and documentation of student attendance in two of the high schools. They made direct contact with students, families, and teachers regarding student attendance. All 26 school assistant positions have now been cut.

The SIRS (Student Information Records System) helpdesk technician position was responsible for interactions with the Saskatchewan Student Data System, including submitting marks, student enrolment, demographic information, classes, and student registration in classes. This layoff eliminates all in-scope SIRS staff.

Two social worker positions are also on the chopping block. Social workers provide invaluable services to students who are experiencing challenges in school and at home.  In addition to assessing student situations and needs, social workers develop programs of assistance for students and their families, including referral to agencies that provide financial assistance, child protection, mental health services, legal aid, housing, medical treatment, and other human service agencies. They work with teachers to develop classrooms solutions to enhance learning. They develop and implement preventative programs aimed at all students.

CUPE concerned with layoffs and reduction in hours of 340 staff of the Saskatchewan Rivers School Board

CUPE 4195 is very concerned about Saskatchewan Rivers School Board’s recent decision to lay off over 340 members–the entire local–and hire them back at reduced hours. The school board covers Prince Albert and surrounding rural areas.

Both parties ratified a new collective agreement in early March, which included wage increases. While a reduction of three days was brought up at the table, nothing was agreed to. The union was quite disappointed when all 340 of its members were given layoff notices last week, with a reduction in days ranging from three to 12 days of work, depending on their classifications. At no point didCUPE sign on to be part of the process for members to lose any days of work.

“The employer decided to go ahead and pursue reductions that were well in excess of the three days initially discussed,” said John Kunard, president of CUPE 4195. “This clearly does not follow the collective agreement process for layoffs and reduction of hours, and it is a bit of a slap in the face considering we just finished bargaining.”

The union is worried about the impact this will have not only on members but also on students.

“We feel strongly that all the hours we work make a difference to students and provide a quality learning environment,” added Kunard. “A reduction of three to 12 days of work will be felt in the classroom, and that is unacceptable.”

There are concerns across the province about what a growing provincial deficit will mean for funding for education. Several other school divisions have announced limited layoffs, but Saskatchewan Rivers is the only division to impose sweeping changes across all support staff.

CUPE members are the lowest paid staff in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division,” said Kunard. “If there has to be budget cuts, cuts should start at the top with positions that will not have a direct impact on students.”

“We have been meeting with the employer to try to come to a resolution to this issue, but the employer’s approach is not conducive to productive labour relations,” added Kunard. “We will continue to fight these layoffs and do our best to ensure that all students have the support they need in the school system.”

CUPE 4195 represents support staff in several classifications at Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, including educational assistants, social workers, library technicians, office support, cooks, and language assistants.

Prairie South School Division lays off 25 staff; CUPE worried about impact on students

CUPE Local 5512 is saddened and disappointed by Prairie South School District’s decision to lay off 25 school assistants working at nine schools in Moose Jaw.

“Our members care passionately about the work they do and the children they watch over. The loss of these jobs is so devastating because of how much heart our members put into their jobs,” said Trish Mula, president of CUPE Local 5512. “This decision is about Prairie South’s financial situation, but it is the students who are going to end up paying the price.”

School assistants are a position unique to Moose Jaw, but they play a vital role in providing recess and lunch time supervision and student support. In addition, they provide support for teaching staff, office work, and the library by providing a wide range of tasks, including: sorting and circulating library books; maintaining bulletin boards; organizing educational aids; and assisting in the school, generally with photocopying, laminating, organizing, delivering materials within the school, and minor cleaning.

“Without school assistants, front line workers like education assistants and teaching staff will have less time for direct student care,” Mula added.  “Who is going to pick up the slack come September? Without school assistants, who will provide lunch time supervision? Who will sort lunches and photocopy assignments? Who will restock the books in the library?”

“Many school assistants are now worried about what the future holds for them. They are worried about how they are going to make ends meet and how they are going to say goodbye to a job they love,” said Mula. “Many of the impacted members do not have the education qualifications to bump into other classifications – even though they have been filling in as substitute education assistants and library associates for years.”

CUPE Local 5512 acknowledges that many school districts, including Prairie South School Division, are facing hard financial times. Prairie Spirit School Division has laid off 60 educational assistants, and the Regina Public School Division is now charging some parents for lunchtime supervision.

“Money is tight in the education sector, and we anticipate that the June provincial budget will make things even tighter,” said Mula. “We encourage members of the public who are concerned about education to contact their MLA.”

CUPE Local 5512 represents over 500 permanent and casual support staff who work for the Prairie South School Division.