Manitoba K-12 education funding much needed, ongoing funding will be required

The Union representing K-12 education support staff in 25 school divisions is calling on the Government to commit to long-term funding to ensure that improvements made in September are sustainable in the years to come.

Today the Manitoba Government announced $52 million in new funding to help school divisions improve their readiness for September.

“We are pleased that the government has allocated new resources to the divisions, and that some of that has been earmarked for increased custodial staff, cleaning, buses, and education assistants,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“We need to ensure that funding is ongoing and is also available to improve the physical learning spaces, as well as address inequities in our school system that make it harder for some students to succeed.”

While K-12 support staff are ready to get back to school and support our children’s education, workers have highlighted a few areas that require additional resources, and encourage all school divisions to consider these recommendations.

CUPE Manitoba’s K-12 school support workers would like to see additional funding allocated for:

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers for every classroom and every school entrance, additional hand washing stations, and staffing to install and refill as necessary;
  • Increased custodial and cleaning staff in schools to be able to keep up with greater cleaning requirements;
  • Additional education assistants to help with cohorting and monitoring mask and physical distancing requirements;
  • Additional education assistants to help students with special needs, language barriers, hearing disabilities, health concerns, etc.;
  • Additional intercultural and community liaisons to help families with language and cultural barriers;
  • Additional support staff on school buses to help ensure student compliance with mask and physical distancing requirements;
  • Professional and paraprofessional support to aid students with mental health challenges, and support well-being for students and staff;
  • Plexiglass barriers installed in school offices, libraries, and other staffed areas;
  • Adequate masks and other personal protective equipment made available for all school support staff;
  • Opening school spaces not currently used for instruction to accommodate for smaller class sizes (including additional support and cleaning);
  • An audit of school ventilation systems across Manitoba, and funding to upgrade these ventilation and filtration systems where necessary. This includes replacing any windows that are unable to open;
  • Clear direction on the protocol when a student exhibits symptoms while in the care of the school division. More specifically, who is responsible if a student tries to enter a school bus with symptoms and the parents are not home to receive the student who is not allowed on the school bus.

“September is approaching fast, and we want to make sure everything has been done to keep our kids safe while also providing the quality of education they deserve,” said Araya.

“There are still a few holes in the government’s back-to-school plans, and we hope the divisions are given all the resources they need to fill those holes.”

CUPE also recognizes that some school divisions have implemented some of these recommendations, and we applaud those divisions for their leadership.

CUPE represents education assistants, custodians, cleaners, school bus drivers, library technicians, intercultural and community liaisons, trades persons, office administrative staff plus more in 25 school divisions across Manitoba.

 

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Provincial Plan to Re-open Schools Short on Resources, More a Wish Than a Plan

WINNIPEG – The Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling for more support staff and resources following today’s announcement of provincial plans to re-open Manitoba schools in September. CUPE is disappointed that no additional resources will be available to ensure health and safety.

“CUPE Manitoba has members in school support jobs in divisions across Manitoba. We have many concerns and questions about school re-opening,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“Today’s announcement sounds more like a wish than a plan.”

The Provincial Government announced that the only funds available for schools to implement measures in line with COVID prevention would be the $48 million in savings that divisions achieved during the winter/spring 2020 remote learning phase.

Added Araya: “For this high-stakes school re-opening to be safe and effective, the Province will need to do better. Schools need to hire more support staff in all areas, from bus drivers to educational assistants, from custodians and cleaners to trades, from library staff to clerical staff, from technical staff to community and language liaisons.”

The Provincial Government announced that Manitoba students will return to school on September 8th, with some restrictions in place. CUPE understands that students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 are expected to learn in the classroom. Students with special needs in all grades will also be learning in-class. Students in high school will learn in-class provided physical distancing can be maintained – otherwise, they can expect some remote learning. School buses, schools and outdoor spaces will undergo additional cleaning and procedures to ensure physical distancing.

“As frontlines staff, CUPE members know firsthand that schools are underfunded and often overcrowded,” said Araya. “Before COVID, some schools already had a high demand for bussing, two or more shifts of recess and lunch, mobile classrooms, and hallway education. At around $68,000 per school, the plan to increase staff and resources for Fall 2020 is unlikely to be enough.”

Concluded Araya: “CUPE members will be the ones implementing many of the direct COVID prevention measures. We want to continue working with school divisions for a successful return in the fall. We look forward to proper support and meaningful consultation from the Province. Students, families and communities need detailed and practical information and options so that we can all have faith in a safe return to the classroom.”

CUPE represents approximately 5,000 education support staff in school divisions across Manitoba, including educational assistants, custodians, maintenance and trades, secretaries, librarians, mechanics, bus drivers, international student support, school liaisons and more.

BREAKING: Court ruling finds Pallister’s wage freeze bill unconstitutional

Manitoba’s largest public sector union applauds Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice McKelvey’s ruling that the Public Services Sustainability Act (PSSA) is unconstitutional.

CUPE and other unions through the Manitoba Federation of Labour’s Partnership to Defend Public Services brought Pallister’s government to court, and won.

“Brian Pallister has been pushing ideological cuts to public services, and attempted to do so by violating our constitutional right to bargain collective agreements,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Pallister lost in court today, but the fight against his austerity agenda isn’t over”.

CUPE provided testimony during the proceedings.

Now that the PSSA has been proven unconstitutional in court, CUPE intends to move swiftly to get to the bargaining table with the intent to negotiate fair deals for the thousands of Manitoba workers, including in health care, education, crown corporations, child care, social services, and more who have been without a contract for over four years.

“Manitoba’s public sector workforce has been on the front-lines fighting COVID-19, and now we are asking Manitobans to support us as we get back to the negotiating table” says Araya.

“CUPE has very straight forward demands: we want a fair deal for workers. But Pallister has made it clear that he is willing to violate constitutional rights to push workers down and that’s something we, and the courts, won’t accept”.

CUPE Manitoba extends our deepest gratitude to the work of the Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck, as well as the hard working staff at the MFL for the countless hours of work put into this fight.

We also extend our congratulations and thanks to all the other members of the PPDS which include unions from across the province for working together through challenging times.

See link for the decision summary provided by representatives of Myers LLP:

If you would like the full decision (download .pdf)

This was won by Manitoba’s labour movement, working together.

Manitoba announces deeply flawed “risk recognition” program

Today the Pallister government announced a $120-million risk recognition program for Manitoba front-line workers. This program is 75% funded by the Federal government and 25% funded by the provincial government, and is intended to provide a one-time payment to recognize employees who are working during the COVID-19 pandemic in essential services.

However the program is limited to certain industries, and positions within those industries, and therefore excludes thousands of essential front-line workers who have been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.

The list of eligible industries and jobs can be found at https://manitoba.ca/covid19/infomanitobans/mrrp_eligible.html.

Further to the industry and position criteria, the program is limited to those workers whose total pre-tax employment income during March 20 to May 29 to be less than $6,250 ($2,500 per month for 2.5 months).

This means that many front-line workers in health care or emergency response will not receive the recognition.

For example, while the program technically includes positions like nurses, health care aides, and emergency services workers, in practice many of these workers will exceed the maximum income allowed for the program, despite being in high-risk positions throughout the pandemic.

Ironically, many part-time and low wage health care support workers will be disqualified from this program because they stepped up during the pandemic and took on additional shifts and overtime. Some may very well find themselves in a worse financial position than if they had not volunteered to work.

Additionally, some sectors, such as non-emergency municipal workers and education workers have been excluded, despite the fact that workers in these sectors are doing the same or similar work as workers in the private sector who are included in the program.

School sector workers such as custodians and cleaners have been working throughout COVID-19 to keep schools clear and safe for returning students in June – but government chose to exclude despite private-sector cleaners being included. Many Education Assistants have also been working throughout the pandemic, providing resources to families. They too are excluded.

CUPE raised these concerns throughout the stakeholder consultation program, and demanded that all front-line workers deserve to be included in the program. This program as it stands is simply unacceptable. When you leave out a group of workers, you send a strong message about their value. An insult to one is an insult to all.

While the Premier says this program was intended to “recognize risk”, in reality this program is being used to subsidize the very low wages that are all too common in Manitoba’s non-unionized private retail and grocery industry. While we at CUPE are 100% of the belief that these workers deserve better, we also believe that the Pallister government has missed an opportunity to recognize all Manitoba workers who have been on the front-lines of the pandemic.

CUPE is committed to continue working with other unions and the community at large to raise the minimum wage to a minimum $15/hour, paid sick leave, and improved employment standards, so that these deserving workers get what they rightfully deserve at all times, not just during a pandemic.

CUPE believes all workers deserve good wages, benefits, and supports, during COVID-19 and after the pandemic. A “risk recognition” program cannot and must not substitute fair wages, decent benefits, and safe work environements for workers. We call on the Pallister government to introduce a living wage as the minimum wage, paid sick leave for all workers during and after the pandemic, and to reverse changes he made which makes it harder for workers to join a union.

COVID-19 has taught our community the value of front-line health workers, municipal workers, school staff, crown services staff, community living workers, and more.  We know Manitobans value all these workers. So why doesn’t Pallister?

If you do meet the criteria for the Manitoba “risk recognition” program, visit https://manitoba.ca/covid19/infomanitobans/mrrp.html beginning June 3 at noon.

Premier Pallister is playing smoke and mirrors with Hydro

Winnipeg – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is playing smoke and mirrors with the public, and is using the COVID-19 pandemic to justify his agenda of public sector cuts, says CUPE 998 President Michelle Bergen representing clerical and technical staff at Manitoba Hydro.

“The half-truths and disinformation coming out of the Premier’s mouth show a deep lack of leadership, and need to be addressed,” says Bergen in response to Pallister’s media conference today.

The Premier consistently claims that public sector unions have not been participating in meaningful dialogue with government or government departments as per Pallister’s April 17 demand for reduced spending.

There is no merit to the latest claim that Manitoba Hydro staff and their representatives have not been participating in constructive dialogue.

On April 20, CUPE and other unions representing Manitoba Hydro employees provided numerous suggestions for alternatives and requested more in-depth discussions, including the option of pursuing Work Share programs (as suggested by Pallister himself), but were turned down by Hydro.

The mandate from government becomes clear: it is either wage rollbacks or layoffs, regardless of what discussions took place.

“The reality is that unions have been at the forefront of constructive labour relations during the pandemic, offering solutions and ideas, and I don’t think the Premier expected that”, says Bergen.

“Pallister is caught in his own web, and is looking for anyone to blame, whether it be unions, universities, school divisions or Crowns who are telling him they just can’t cut any more.”

The government has resisted questions on what employees constitute ‘non-essential’ for the purposes of layoffs.

To-date Pallister has provided only deflections and musings about how we’re all family and we need to pull up our boot straps, or something tedious like that.

“Premier Pallister needs to stop using the pandemic as a smoke screen for his austerity agenda, and he needs to come clean to Manitobans”, concludes Bergen.

In the meantime, it is CUPE 998’s intention to get back to meeting with Hydro to discuss alternatives to mass layoffs.

Pallister pushes reckless plan to lay off 700 at Manitoba Hydro

WINNIPEG – Unions representing Manitoba Hydro workers across the province are outraged that the Premier is putting the safety and reliability of public energy at risk by forcing mass, unjustified job cuts.

AMHSSE, CUPE, IBEW and Unifor have been in talks with Manitoba Hydro. Government demanded huge cuts from public bodies, and Hydro plans to move ahead with up to 700 layoffs to meet the target. The Unions are warning Premier Pallister that this is no time to cut essential services and frontline workers.

“This is reckless. Manitoba Hydro is an essential public service that is operating at full capacity throughout this pandemic,” said Michelle Bergen, President of CUPE Local 998. “Pallister has had his eyes on our public Hydro since he was elected in 2016. Pallister’s cuts are not to support the fight against COVID-19, they are purely political. This will be devastating.”

Added Terry Dunlop, President of AMHSSE: “The government’s demand for cuts at Hydro has been relentless. The government is supposed to be supporting frontline workers and Manitobans. These job cuts hurt, not help.”

The Unions learned that Hydro found temporary savings in other areas and would have been able to deliver nearly all the demanded savings over fours months – but Pallister insisted on deep job cuts. Unions proposed a work share plan, but Hydro claimed it would not be eligible. Unions learned that Hydro included vacancy management (leaving vacant positions unfilled) measures in their cost-cutting plan, but even that was not enough for government. Hydro told unions today that they would be laying off 11-13% of the workforce, or 600-700 people.

“It’s time for us to stand up for safe, reliable public energy,” said Mike Espenell, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “These mass job cuts will put Hydro in a dangerous position. We are working full-tilt and using safe practices during the pandemic. We are doing our part, coming to work every day. This pandemic could be a lot worse to handle if Manitobans in care, at home, at work and in industry have to wait longer for service because of Pallister’s reckless cuts.”

The Unions argue that job cuts and wage depression for frontline workers at the utility have left no room for more job cuts. In recent years, at the Premier’s behest, Hydro workers have already taken two years of flatlined wages, and the frontline workforce has been downsized.

Added Victor Diduch, Acting President of Unifor Local 681: “We have already been cut to the bone – Hydro’s annual payroll cost has been going down for four years. To meet Pallister’s demands to cut costs, we are getting into the danger zone. It makes no sense to hammer workers – all that does is compromise our public hydro and gas service, and take money away from families who are trying to get through this crisis. Pallister is clinging to an austerity agenda during the pandemic, against all evidence.”

For more information or to arrange an interview:

Association of Manitoba Hydro Staff and Supervisory Employees (AMHSSE)
Terry Dunlop, President                         204-981-4505   tdunlop@hydro.mb.ca

Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 998
Michelle Bergen, President                    204-792-7412   mibergen@hydro.mb.ca

International Brotherhood Electrical Workers Local 134
Mike Espenell, Business Manager          204-941-3766   mespenell@ibew2034.com

Unifor Local 681
Victor Diduch, Acting President              204-791-1679  vdiduch@hydro.mb.ca

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all Manitobans fighting to flatten the curve

Today, when asked if the Manitoba government would be providing assistance to small and medium size retail employers so they can operate safely, Premier Brian Pallister ignored this very legitimate concern, and instead  criticized unemployed Manitoba workers and the Federal Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

“We are fighting against a federal program that is actually paying people to stay out of the workforce right now. I don’t like the fact that that is real, but that is real. People are being paid to stay home and not work.”  Brian Pallister on April 29, 2020

CUPE’s message to all Manitobans is “Thank you”.

Thank you for doing your part to flatten the curve. Thank you for staying home.

All your efforts these past six weeks have been to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
You are helping to protect front-line health workers who are fighting COVID-19 every day.
You are helping seniors, elders, and those in our community who are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
You are saving lives.

We encourage all Manitobans to continue practicing physical distancing.

If you are laid off, have seen your hours cut, if you are sick or in quarantine due to COVID-19, you are taking care of someone who is in quarantine or suck due to COVID-19, or you’re taking care of children or other dependents because their school or care facility is closed, please continue to access the resources available to you. Those resources are there to help you get through these difficult times and provide for yourself and your families.

You are not “being paid to stay home and not work”. You are doing your part to fight a global pandemic, and we truly thank you.

 

Week of the Early Childhood Educator, April 26 – May 2

April 26 – May 2, 2020 has been proclaimed as the 29th Week of the ECE.

On behalf of 37,000 CUPE members across Manitoba, we thank all early childhood educators, providers, and child care staff who are on the front-lines serving our community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a greater public light on the incredible value our child care workers provide to the community, a value that has been under-recognized for decades, and as a result, early childhood educators and staff have historically been underpaid. There are also thousands of unorganized child care workers across the country who have little job security and very few benefits.

“We should be looked at as professionals and not just one week out of the year, but always” says Peggy Robichaud, who sits on CUPE’s National Child Care Working Group and is President of CUPE Local 1543 at Knox Day Nursery in Winnipeg.

“Child Care has always been essential, not just in times of crisis. So I want to wish all the ECE’s, CCA’s, and Support staff to have a great ECE Week in spite of all the chaos that’s going on, and know that you are valued 365 days of the year”.

This Week of the Early Childhood Educator, CUPE hopes all Manitobans will take note of the tireless work of our child care workers across the province, and take a moment to thank the child care workers in your community.

We also hope the provincial government and child care organizations recognize the importance of fully funded, public, and accessible child care for all Manitobans and will invest in creating more public child care spaces to fill critical gaps in the care for our children.

The Manitoba government has been slowly introducing more private, for-profit child care into Manitoba, a move that could undermine the quality and accessibility of child care to many families. CUPE Manitoba has been advocating to protect public, non-profit, accessible child care and has already raised red flags over the province’s direction.

We also continue our call to the federal government for a national, universal, quality, publicly funded child care plan across Canada.

Today is an important day to recognize the work of child care workers across Manitoba, and to be steadfast in our commitment to fight for child care staff across the province, today and into the future.

CUPE represents approximately 12,000 child care workers across Canada.
Learn more about CUPE’s child care sector and our advocacy for child care workers nation-wide.

To our child care heroes, thank you!

Learn more about the Week of the ECE at the Manitoba Child Care Association.

Read the Full Provincial Proclamation

Pallister’s support for health workers is hollow

WINNIPEG – Brian Pallister’s promise of 14 days of paid administrative leave for front-line health workers has given false hope to hundreds of health workers who have been in isolation due to COVID-19, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“When Brian Pallister announced 14 days of paid administrative leave for front line health care workers, it was expected that this was to ensure workers told to self-isolate by their employer would be covered,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE Health Care Coordinator.

“It turns out his promise only covers very few health workers, and hundreds will be forced to exhaust their sick banks, leaving the health system vulnerable in the future.”

On April 14th, Premier Pallister and health officials promised a 14-day paid leave for health care workers who come in contact with COVID-19 to self-isolate. On April 24th the government informed staff that the coverage indeed only covers staff who the employer officially recognizes have come in direct contact with COVID-19 in the workplace.

It does not cover health workers turned away at the door when they are screened coming in to work.

“When you force health workers to use their sick bank to self-isolate, you are asking those workers to return to work with no sick time available going forward,” said McAteer.

“Sick banks in health care are there for a reason, and that’s to ensure if a health worker catches a cold, or gets ill, they aren’t choosing between a paycheque or staying home: they stay home.”

Home care workers have access to a maximum of four paid sick days at any time and many have less sick time available than that. This is unacceptable at the best of times and a dire circumstance during this historic pandemic.

CUPE calls on the provincial government to extend the 14-day paid administrative leave to cover all health care workers who are sent home by their employer to self isolate.

CUPE also calls on the provincial government to extend presumptive WCB coverage to all workers who are sent home due to COVID-19.
“During a health pandemic we need to make sure workers are protected,” said McAteer. “Pallister’s support for health workers is hollow.”

Q&A for CUPE health care locals: 14-day paid administrative leave & working single sites

CUPE has been working hard to get answers from health authorities. The following Q&A provides some answers to frequently asked questions from health care members. Keep in mind, this update is as of April 24, 2020.

Things change very quickly, and CUPE will continue trying to provide up-to-date information.

14-day Paid Administrative Leave

Q. How are staff to access/apply for the 14-days paid sick leave from the Province of Manitoba?
A. Managers and/or supervisors are supposed to review anyone who was off due to workplace exposure automatically. This applies for pick-up shifts and part-time and casual shifts that were scheduled during the period. However, it only applies while employees are asymptomatic. If employees become symptomatic, then the coverage ends and income shifts to sick time. If staff become symptomatic during quarantine, they should notify their manager and OESH.

Q. Does it apply for people who were quarantined due to travel or community exposure as well as at work?
A. No. It only covers possible exposure in the workplace.

Q. Does it apply to folks who are sent home during the onsite screening?
A. No, members will have to utilize sick leave, vacation or any banks that they have. If you do not have any of those, you may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance (EI). Information about these programs and how to apply can be found at: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

Q. Does it apply for community/primary care clinics?
A. Yes, if the exposure is at work.

Q. When the claim is retroactive, how will it work if someone has received EI and/or CERB for that time frame?
A. If you received CERB or EI for the quarantine/isolation period and then receive this paid administrative leave from the Employer – you must report to CERB/EI when you receive the money.

Q. In what cases should I report to Workers Compensation Board (WCB) and fill out incident reports?
A. When you have been exposed at work, you should fill in an incident report and make a claim with WCB as well.

Q. Does it apply for private personal care homes (PPCH)?
A. Yes, it applies to both public and private personal care homes. However, the private (Revera and Extendicare) do not fall under the Provincial Health Labour Relations Services (PHLRS) so how it will be implemented may be different.


Working Single Sites

 

Q. Do I have to tell my Employers if I have another job?
A. Yes, during this pandemic you have to tell the Employer about additional jobs. You should not have to provide your social insurance number. Your Employer has that on record already.

Q. When will I have to start working at only one site?
A. The provincial government says that as of May 1, 2020, staff will have to work at only one site.

Q. What will happen to my EFT from the site I do not choose?
A. The Employer is saying they will try to make everyone whole. This means trying to provide you extra hours at the site at which you choose to work. If you have more than a full-time EFT between your sites, they are also trying to figure out how they will handle that. CUPE has stated members should not lose income during this process.


Q.
What will happen to my benefits and pension?
A. CUPE has stated that members’ benefits and pensions must be protected. The Employer has said that they will look into this.

Q. What will happen to my wage?
A. CUPE has stated that staff should all make the higher public sector wages, no matter where you choose to work during this time.


Q.
What will happen to my seniority and vacation/sick time accrual at the site I do not choose to work at?
A. CUPE has raised this as a concern. The Employer has not made a decision at this time.

Other Resources:

Federal Income Supports:
https://cupe.ca/income-supports-workers-during-coronavirus-pandemic
https://cupe.ca/canada-emergency-response-benefit-qa
https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei.html
https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html