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.

CUPE Seeking Alternatives to Pallister Public Sector Layoffs

Last week, with extremely short notice, CUPE was advised by the Pallister government about their desire to reduce the cost of so-called “non-essential” public sector workforce by 10-30 per cent. Unions and employers were initially informed about the plan through a provincial news release.

The workforce reduction will not apply to essential workers in areas like health care, child care, K-12 teaching and certain other public services and utilities – but it is alarming news from our government in the midst of the crisis of our generation. To do this, they are asking government departments and agencies to submit plans that cut workforce spending by 10%-30%.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour, CUPE, and our union friends in the Partnership to Defend Public Services attended a meeting on April 14th to discuss the request from government.

The government has presented two main options to avoid full layoffs of individual employees:

  1. Implement work-sharing agreements where “non-essential” staff would have their work week reduced to as few as two days per week and receive Employment Insurance for lost workdays. This work-sharing would have to be workplace-wide or possibly department-wide, unless positions are “essential”. The EI maximum of $54,000 per year would apply to income under this option.
  2. Expand employees’ ability to participate in a Voluntary Reduced Work Week. Under such a scenario, employees would be allowed to take up to 35 days of absence without pay. Approved VRWs may be treated as regular working days for pension, group life, and accumulated service calculations.

The work-sharing option is only possible if the federal government deems your employer eligible. Currently, the Federal Government has deemed Government Business Enterprises eligible (such as crown corporations and certain independent, revenue generating agencies) and Universities, but core government services such as the civil service and K-12education are not. The Federal Government would need to expand program eligibility further to include these last groups.

The government has so far been unable to say which public services they believe are non-essential. At the same time, the government has also made it clear that they will start making decisions on these matters very soon. The government has requested options for cost reductions by as early as Tuesday, April 21th. The provincial government has new powers under emergency legislation and could pass orders to require workforce reductions. CUPE is calling on the provincial government to respect our collective agreements.

CUPE Manitoba has serious concerns about these proposals, and some are worse than others. We are working towards the best solutions to the financial pressures of COVID-19, options that keep the public sector working. We want to keep doing our part to support health care and other public services that are so important and to work towards a collective social and economic recovery.

Across Manitoba, we are seeing the difference that public service workers are making in our communities. We know that quality public services are essential for all Manitobans – in normal times, and in these unprecedented and extremely challenging times, too.

The government’s job during a crisis is to demonstrate leadership, keep people safe, and make sure people can pay their bills and put food on the table. Cutting services and laying people off isn’t the answer. These measures reduce the government’s ability to respond and support people, and further shrinks the economy and the tax base.

We know this is creating more anxiety in your life during an already overwhelming time for all of us. We know that members have mortgages, rent, utilities and other bills to pay, and that a forced reduction in hours or days of work could create a personal crisis for you.

Please let us know how this might affect you – we would like to have stories and concerns and questions to share with management as we continue to look for answers. (We will keep your identity confidential.)

Protecting the jobs and livelihoods of our members and our communities is one of our top priorities, and we are working hard to avoid layoffs and mandatory workforce reductions across our provinces.

CUPE is here with you, and for you. Please contact your local CUPE executives if you have questions or concerns, and we’ll do everything we can to support you.

Joint Statement: CUPE Manitoba, Inclusion Winnipeg, Inclusion Westman, Children’s Coalition: Keep Education Assistants and Support Staff working for our children

Manitoba – Workers and disability advocates are calling on School Divisions to keep Education Assistants (EAs) and other support staff on the working for our students while schools are suspended.

“Education Assistants are providing critical support to children with disabilities during the COVID-19 virus crisis,” said Janet Forbes from Inclusion Winnipeg.

“The COVID-19 virus puts children with disabilities at greater risk due to existing health conditions, reliance on outside support and disruptions to daily routines.”

“Families are more isolated than ever and there is so much work that needs to be done to support those children and their families who may not be used to instruction from home.”

As the union that represents 5,000 school support staff in twenty-four school divisions across Manitoba, CUPE is ready to work with School Divisions to help ensure there are no layoffs to Education Assistants and other support staff.

“CUPE has reached out to School Divisions to see how we can work together to help EAs either work remotely from home or find creative ways to support their students during this crisis,” said CUPE Manitoba President Abe Araya. “With so many students studying at home, we need a strong, fully-staffed education system to get these students the support they need.”

“It is important that all students have access to the supports they require to learn at home during this time,” said Amanda Hamm of Inclusion Westman. “We know that Education Assistants have a role to play in providing this needed support especially in terms of supporting students with additional needs. We are calling on schools to provide this consistent support to all students so they can continue their learning at home.”

In a letter to School Superintendents, the Education Minister suggested that “savings generated as a result of the closures of schools must be held in a separate account”.

It is CUPE’s position that this is not a time to generate savings, rather it’s a time to support staff and be creative. “School Divisions in Manitoba have already budgeted for their staff for the year, and those staff need to be focused on helping students succeed,” said Araya.

“Many students and their families face additional challenges working remotely, and addressing those challenges cannot happen without school support staff.”

This position is also endorsed by the Children’s Coalition, an advocacy organization for children with disabilities.

CUPE Manitoba represents approximately 5,000 education support staff in twenty-four school divisions across Manitoba, including EAs, custodians, maintenance and trades, secretaries, library techs, mechanics, bus drivers, international student support, school liaisons and more. Inclusion Winnipeg is a registered charity which, for 60 years, has been dedicated to making life better for children and adults living with intellectual disabilities.

Inclusion Westman is a not-for-profit organization committed to enriching the lives of people who live with an intellectual disability in the Westman region by promoting their full inclusion in the community. The work we do benefits not only the individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families, but the community in which they reside.

The Children’s Coalition is a network of organizations which exists to unite the voice of families in matters that have a direct impact on their supports and services. The Coalition is committed to working in partnership with community-based agencies and government departments including Family Services and Housing, Education, Citizenship and Youth, and Health, to achieve a coordinated network supporting the full inclusion in community life of children with disabilities and their families.

CUPE sends letters to over 150 Manitoba School Trustees, calling for support to school staff

CUPE Manitoba is calling on over a hundred School Trustees across the province to do the right thing, and keep school support staff working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, March 31st the Minister of Education informed School Divisions that schools will be suspended indefinitely, and that School Divisions are to decide how to ensure students and families get the supports they need.

On Wednesday, CUPE sent emails to over 150 individual School Trustees from across Manitoba, as well as to the Minister of Education, urging all decision-makers to ensure there are no layoffs in K-12 education.

“With so many students studying at home, we need a strong, fully-staffed education system to get these students the support they need,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“School Divisions in Manitoba have already budgeted for their staff for the year, and those staff need to be focused on helping students succeed.”

Laying off staff would also disproportionately harm students and families who need the extra resources.

“There are many newcomer and refugee children in our schools who have language barriers, cultural barriers, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Araya, who came to Canada as a refugee youth himself and understands the value these support workers provide to families.

“We need our school liaisons and education assistants (EAs) working with our youth, and supporting families who have additional challenges at home.”

CUPE is also advocating to ensure school bus drivers continue to provide support to families.

“School bus drivers can play critical roles in helping deliver course materials to families, especially those who don’t have their own transportation,” said Araya.

“Our rural school bus drivers and EAs know the challenges families face when students are working remotely from different communities, and can certainly be invaluable resources to help rural families stay home during the pandemic.”

Letter to School Trustees (English)
Letter to School Trustees (French)
Letter to Minister of Education

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 700,000 members.  In Manitoba, CUPE represents approximately 37,000 members including 5,000 school support staff across 24 school divisions.

School support workers need to stay on payroll to support our kids

The union representing most K-12 educational staff in Manitoba schools is calling on the Manitoba government and School Divisions to keep all K-12 workers on the payroll during COVID-19.

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced today that the schools across Manitoba will be suspended indefinitely, and that school support staff could be laid off.

“Education Assistants (EAs) still have work to do to support our students; custodians and trades still need to take care of our schools,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE and a school custodian himself.  “We need all hands on deck to support our students while they learn from home, and School Divisions need to do everything possible to keep EAs and support staff working for our young people.”

The Minister told reporters that each School Division is responsible for finding “value added” from support staff, and that it is up to the Divisions to decide whether or not to lay off employees.

Premier Jason Kenney recently made major cuts to the education system in Alberta as a result of school suspensions, moving money out of the education system to be used elsewhere, which was widely labeled as a “reckless” move by educators.

“School Divisions in Manitoba have already budgeted for their staff for the year, and that needs to be seen through,” said Araya. “School Divisions need to be creative in helping EAs support students through digital tools, and students with special needs, language barriers, and who face socio-economic challenges will need even more support than ever.”

School custodians, trades, and clerical staff still have work they can be doing to keep our schools maintained and operational for students and their families. Library techs can still be used as resources for teachers and families.

School bus drivers can also be tasked with delivering education materials, especially to families who may not have access to the internet.

“Any cuts to staffing will hurt our schools, and hurt our children’s education, especially now that so many students are facing challenging times learning from home,” said Araya.  “Students, parents, and teachers need to know that they have access to the supports they need to help students succeed.”

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

CUPE calls for full supports for K-12 school support staff amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Provincial Government announced it would suspend all publicly funded schools in Manitoba for three weeks beginning March 23, and ending April 6. This measure is being taken to help slow the spread of the virus COVID-19 in Manitoba.

On Friday, March 13 CUPE reached out to the Minister of Education’s office to express our concerns.

School Divisions have taken different approaches to how staff will be handled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

School staff in most divisions have been asked to report to work during the closures. On March 16, CUPE expressed our concerns around school bus drivers being asked to perform medical assessments on students in one Division.

CUPE believes all school support staff deserve full protections in the case of school suspensions or closures.

CUPE’s is asking School Divisions to ensure the following:

Education Assistants, clerical, library techs and other non-teaching employees, including liaisons, IT, International Student Support, central office staff, crossing guards, child support workers etc.

  • EAs and other non-teaching employees should not perform the duties of custodians, cleaners, or other duties outside of their bargaining unit.
  • All staff should be provided with appropriate training related to their duties, as well as precautions related to COVID-19, reviewed by the union.
  • Where necessary, child-care shall be provided at no cost for school division employees. If this is not available, parents of children needing care shall be allowed to stay home with full wage continuance, benefits, pension contributions, vacation accumulation, and any other regular form of compensation.
  • Should schools cease operations entirely, it is CUPE’s position that School Divisions provide full wage continuance, as well as benefits, pension contributions, vacation accumulation etc., and any other regular form of compensation for affected members.

 Custodians, maintenance, trades, painters etc.

  • Custodians, maintenance, trades, painters etc. should not perform duties outside the work of their bargaining unit.
  • All staff should be provided with appropriate training related to their duties, as well as precautions related to COVID-19, reviewed by the union.
  • Where necessary, child-care shall be provided at no cost for school division employees. If this is not available, parents of children needing care shall be allowed to stay home with full wage continuance, benefits, pension contributions, vacation accumulation, and any other regular form of compensation.
  • Should schools cease operations entirely, it is CUPE’s position that School Divisions provide full wage continuance, as well as benefits, pension contributions, vacation accumulation etc. for affected members.

Bus drivers, mechanics etc.

  • Bus drivers and mechanics should not perform duties outside the work of their bargaining unit.
  • All staff should be provided with appropriate training related to their duties, as well as precautions related to COVID-19, reviewed by the union.
  • Where necessary, child-care shall be provided at no cost for school division employees. If this is not available, parents of children needing care shall be allowed to stay home with full wage continuance, benefits, pension contributions, vacation accumulation, and any other regular form of compensation.
  • Should schools or bus routes cease operations entirely, it is CUPE’s position that School Divisions provide full wage continuance, as well as benefits, pension contributions, vacation accumulation etc., and any other regular form of compensation for affected members.

CUPE will also utilize the tools that we have – our collective agreement and layoff language – if employers are unable to continue to pay regular wages.

CUPE recognizes that these are difficult circumstances, and we are prepared to discuss with School Divisions how to best get through them. However, we also have rights and collective agreements which need to be respected and enforced.

With that said, CUPE takes the position that employees should not be doing the work of members of other bargaining units to which they are not a member except in the following circumstances:

  • It has been agreed to, in writing, by the impacted bargaining units;
  • Employees have been provided with the full training and education to do the assigned task in a manner which does not jeopardize the health and safety of themselves or others;
  • Employees have been provided with all appropriate levels of safety gear, including gloves and masks, and where appropriate other personal protective equipment;
  • If an employee refuses to perform duties for health or safety reasons, all efforts should be made to accommodate the employee to another duty.

CUPE also echoes the principles outlined by the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, and expect equal consideration is afforded to support staff.

  1. If schools are closed, status of employment is working from home – salary and benefits continue.
  2. If classes are suspended (no students) members will report to work as assigned by their school divisions (note our above concerns on duties assigned) – salary and benefits continue.
  3. If a member is quarantined (not sick): status of employment is on an ‘administrative (paid) leave’ – salary and benefits continue.
  4. If a member is quarantines (sick): sick leave provisions apply.
  5. If a member is quarantined (sick) and sick leave provisions run out: in the case of a medically disabling condition, short-term and long-term benefits apply.
  6. If the employer directs the employee to stay at home and the employee is not sick then the employer shall pay the employee as if they are working from home.

CUPE echoes the Manitoba Teachers Society’s call for schools to be suspended as soon as possible.

Joint Health and Safety Committees

CUPE is asking all employers and locals to work with their Joint Health and Safety Committees to review any pandemic plan or develop one if there is not one already in place. This plan will help to provide direction where there is uncertainty for employees and families.

Below are points should be included in the plan:

  • A statement that encourages workers to stay home if they have symptoms of infection.
  • The identification of decision makers within the organization and key personnel who manage the plan and monitor absence rates.
  • Measures and strategies to respond to staff shortages.
  • The identification of how the employer will screen visitors and clients for the disease before they access the workplace.
  • The contingency plan in the event of a public transit shutdown.
  • Personal protective equipment (individual requirements, training, and stockpile).
  • The role of the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative.
  • Financial compensation for those who are required to quarantine, self isolate or required to take care of family members, if not covered in the collective agreement.
  • Mental health support for grieving workers or those suffering from anxiety or trauma.
  • Levels of increased environment/custodial cleaning practices and routines.
  • The identification of how the employer will communicate with the Public Health Unit, if required.

CUPE will continue to monitor the situation as it changes, and will protect the rights or our members.

CUPE represents over 5,000 K-12 school support staff including EAs, library techs, bus drivers, custodians, maintenance, liaisions and others.

If you are experiencing symptoms and recently traveled outside Canada or you were exposed to someone who has COVID-19, it is advised that you stay home and contact Health Links (204-788-8200) or toll-free at 1-888-315-9257) for instructions.

Shared Health also offers an online self-screening tool: https://sharedhealthmb.ca/covid19/screening-tool/

For the latest news visit:

Government of Canada:  https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/being-prepared.html

Government of Manitoba:  https://www.gov.mb.ca/health/coronavirus/
Shared Health
(including resources for health care staff):  https://sharedhealthmb.ca/health-providers/coronavirus-resources/
Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness Benefits:
www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html

CUPE calls on School Divisions to cancel school bus routes – COVID-19

WINNIPEG – CUPE is calling on School Divisions to cancel school bus routes, following the
Louis Riel School Division’s (LRSD) March 15th email to parents noting that school bus drivers
are expected to conduct medical assessments of students prior to letting them on the bus.
Additionally, according to the email, school bus drivers are required to permit students on the bus
who exhibit flu-like symptoms.

“CUPE is incredibly concerned that the School Division is expecting bus drivers to conduct
medical assessments of students,” said Rick Peschel, CUPE School Sector Coordinator.
“Considering the health authorities’ suggestion of social distancing, we’re not convinced that is
possible on a school bus.”

Bus drivers are not equipped to provide accurate medical assessments of students or parents
entering their vehicle.

Bus drivers do not have the appropriate health and safety tools to perform their duties in an
enclosed vehicle with students who may have COVID-19-like symptoms.

Drivers who identify students with flu-like symptoms do not have the appropriate tools or training
to ensure that the quarantined student follows social distancing procedures.

“Bus drivers should be focused on the road, not on enforcing a quarantine at the back of their
bus,” said Peschel. “For the safety of the students and staff, CUPE is calling for the cancellation
of school bus routes going forward, asking parents to assess their children who may have flu-like
symptoms by calling Health Links, and arranging alternate transportation.”

CUPE also echoes the Manitoba Teachers Society’s call for schools to be suspended as soon as
possible.

Should schools or bus routes cease operations entirely, it is CUPE’s position that School
Divisions should provide full wage continuance for affected members, including bus drivers,
educational assistants, secretaries, custodians and other staff.

The LRSD memo to parents can be found here: https://mailchi.mp/lrsd/important-informationabout-
covid-4351387?e=8123f27ae5

CUPE represents over 5,000 school division employees across Manitoba.

Manitoba Throne Speech threatens public education, child care, and continues to hurt front-line health care – CUPE

The Manitoba Throne Speech offers little reassurance that the provincial government will support public education and child care, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“With the elimination of the education property tax, we are concerned that the government will resort to school cuts, especially under the auspices of the K-12 review,” said Abe Araya, President of Manitoba. “Where is the government going to come up with funding for our children’s education?”

The Throne Speech also introduces the government’s plans to increase private child care spaces in the province, including for capital investments in private child care facilities.

“The government should be focused on increasing public, affordable child care across Manitoba, rather than subsidizing private facilities that could end up costing families more,” said Araya. “Childcare advocates have been calling for fully funded public child care in the province, and this government is going the opposite direction”.

CUPE Manitoba President Abe Araya, and CUPE 204 President Debbie Boissonneault at the Manitoba Throne Speech

The government’s sweeping changes to the health care system continues to impact front-line health care support staff.

“As the government and health authorities continue to implement their restructuring of health care, support workers remain understaffed and under-valued,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE Local 204 representing Community and Facility Support staff in the WRHA and Shared Health.

“We need investments in support staff positions, as well as a commitment from the province that they will not be privatizing or contracting out any health care services”.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 700,000 members. In Manitoba, CUPE is the province’s largest union, representing approximately 36,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, school divisions, municipal services, social services, child care centres, public utilities, libraries and family emergency services.

 

Abe Araya Elected as President of CUPE Manitoba

BRANDON – Delegates at the 2019 CUPE Manitoba Convention in Brandon elected Abe Araya as President of the province’s largest union. Abe Araya comes from CUPE Local 110, representing custodians, maintenance, and painters at the Winnipeg School Division.

“Our union is focused on fighting back against cuts to health care, education, social services, and privatization,” said Araya. “Despite Brian Pallister’s attempts to divide working people, we will be uniting workers from across Manitoba to put a stop to Pallister’s austerity agenda.”

Delegates at convention voted in support resolutions, ranging from health and safety in the workplace, anti-oppression training for activists, pushing back against privatization, fighting against health care and education cuts, and supporting the Green New Deal.

“CUPE is an incredibly diverse union,” said Araya. “With the strength of Manitoba’s largest union, we will be on the front line defending public health care and education, public Hydro, and fighting for properly funded childcare and social services for all Manitobans.”

CUPE’s annual convention featured guest speakers, including NDP leader Wab Kinew, NDP Critic for Infrastructure and Municipal Affairs Matt Wiebe, NDP Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre Leah Gazan, Winnipeg School Division Trustee Yijie Chen, and Manitoba Health Coalition Director Breanne Goertzen.

CUPE National President Mark Hancock and CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury spoke to delegates, committing the full strength of CUPE’s 700,000 members to fight against cuts and privatization.

Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck provided updates on labour’s united front against Bill 28 (The Public Services Sustainability Act) and committed to fight against the Pallister government’s unconstitutional wage freeze.

Two hundred people rallied outside Brandon City Hall with CUPE Local 69 on Wednesday evening, voicing concern over the contracting out of work at the Wheat City Golf Course.

Gord Delbridge, President of CUPE Local 500 served as interim CUPE Manitoba President throughout 2019. Delbridge continues to serve as Vice-President of CUPE Manitoba. Barb Gribben of CUPE Local 737 was this year’s recipient of the prestigious Jack Rodie Award, recognizing dedication and activism in the union.

“Our union is stronger, and more united than ever,” said Araya. “Manitobans can count on CUPE to defend good jobs, and fight for our public services.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 700,000 members.  In Manitoba, CUPE represents over 36,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, school divisions, municipal services, social services, childcare centres, public utilities, libraries and family emergency services.

CUPE celebrates School Support Staff Recognition Week, Sept 23 – 27, 2019

The Province of Manitoba has declared the week of September 23 – 27, 2019 as School Support Staff Recognition Week.

Because of CUPE, the Manitoba government has recognized the hard work of school support staff since 2013, and has set aside this important week to acknowledge the value of school support staff to our education system.

“School support staff in Manitoba help keep our schools safe and clean, they get our kids to school safely, keep our schools running, and they help our children learn, grow, and succeed,” says Gord Delbridge, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“Recognizing school support staff goes beyond a proclaimed recognition week – we need to continue to support them in fighting for fair wages, pension & benefits, and workplace health and safety”.

Minister of Education Kelvin Goertzen wrote to CUPE, thanking school support staff and our union for encouraging Manitobans to recognize and appreciate the work of school support staff in Manitoba.

“School Support Staff Recognition Week in Manitoba will provide educators, parents and community members with many opportunities to thank school support staff for the valuable role they play in schools, and in the functioning of Manitoba’s education system” wrote Goertzen.

CUPE School Division Sector is running a this week, encouraging the public to thank school support workers in Manitoba.

See the full proclamations below: