Stefanson setting new Manitoba schools up for failure: CUPE Manitoba

WINNIPEG, TREATY 1 – Today Minister of Education, Wayne Ewasko, and Minister of Consumer Protection and Government Services, James Teitsma, announced that they will be building new schools under the Public-Private Partnership (P3) model.

“This government tried P3 schools before but cancelled them because they realised building schools the traditional way would cost less and get done faster,” said
Gina McKay, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Bringing P3 schools back from the dead shows that the Stefanson government is ideologically committed to a bad idea.” 

Evidence across Canada shows that P3s are less accountable and will cost more.

In today’s release, Ministers Ewasko and Teitsma cited Alberta and Saskatchewan as being successful cases, but the Alberta government recently scrapped their plans to build more P3 schools citing cost and inflexibility for teachers. In one case, due to the private contract, staff were not permitted to operate the thermostat. This was the second time Alberta conservative governments have abandoned their controversial P3 school model.

In Regina, teachers weren’t allowed to decorate classrooms or open windows in P3 schools. In 2018 it was found that Saskatchewan was spending four times more per school on maintenance for 18 new P3 schools as it had for the remaining 621 schools in the province.

“Stefanson is setting these schools up for failure,” said McKay. “Manitobans won’t forget this governments attacks on schools and education workers, and we won’t accept P3 schools in our province.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents more than 6,000 school support staff in Manitoba.

CUPE MB President Gina McKay Calls for Better K-12 Education Funding and Supports

CUPE Manitoba President Gina McKay was interviewed by the Winnipeg Free Press and CTV News this week, advocating for better K-12 Education funding, training, and staffing to address violence in schools.

McKay said CUPE continues to advocate for additional public dollars for the K-12 system so all schools are adequately staffed with EAs. These workers are facing growing and increasingly complex workloads as they support students recovering from COVID-19-related disruptions and anxieties while class sizes climb, she said. […]

Local leaders from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, whose membership include roughly 6,000 school support staff employed across more than 25 public boards in Manitoba, have been meeting to discuss the growing issue of workplace violence in recent months.

“These are systemic issues; it’s nothing new,” said Gina McKay, president of CUPE Manitoba.

“We’ve heard about physical violence in the workplace — biting, kicking, verbal abuse and worse, and we also look to some of the research that’s coming out across Canada.”

Ontario Education Workers Serve Five Days’ Strike Notice

On November 16, 2022, CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) central bargaining committee, representing 55,000 frontline education workers, provided 5 days notice of a potential province-wide strike.

The School Boards Collective Bargaining Act requires that workers employed by school boards give five days’ notice before beginning a job action. The November 16th notice from education workers means a strike is possible starting on Monday, November 21st if no deal is reached.

While OSBCU has indicated that they have reached a middle ground with the Ford government and the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) on wages, the government has refused to commit to invest in the services that students need, and parents expect.

“From the beginning, we’ve been focused on improved jobs for education workers and improved services for students. For us, there is no one without the other,” said Laura Walton, educational assistant, and president of CUPE-OSBCU. “It’s incredibly disappointing that the Ford government categorically refused to put money on the table to give students the type of learning environment they need.”

If a deal is not reached, and Ontario education workers do start strike action as early as Monday, November 21st, it will be the second time that Ontario education workers have been forced to walk off the job this month.

Provincial CUPE leaders including CUPE MB President Gina McKay show their support


On November 4, 2022, CUPE education workers across Ontario walked off the job in protest of Bill 28 – the Ford Conservative government’s legislation that stripped CUPE education workers of the right to strike and collectively bargain.

Courts have repeatedly held that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides citizens with the right to free and fair collective bargaining and that governments cannot use their legislative power to remove those rights. The Ford government’s legislation invoked the Notwithstanding Clause of the Charter, a seldom-used provision designed for situations of competing rights or national emergencies, to pre-emptively deny workers their fundamental rights.

The broader labour movement quickly rallied behind CUPE in the fight against this encroachment of our fundamental rights. OPSEU education workers also walked out with CUPE in protest of the legislation. Labour leaders from across the country immediately began organizing a response to turn up the heat on the Ford government and were prepared to announce their plans on the morning of November 7th when Doug Ford, facing a united Labour movement and an angry public, held an emergency press conference to announce he would rescind Bill 28 and return to the bargaining table in exchange for CUPE returning to work.

CUPE accepted Ford’s offer and returned to work on November 8th. On November 14th Ford’s government officially repealed Bill 28.

Quick Facts:

Education workers are fighting for guarantees of:

  • enough educational assistants so all students get the supports they need and so schools could stop sending kids home because there is not an EA available;
  • an early childhood educator in every kindergarten classroom so every four- and five-year-old would get the play-based learning support that is especially necessary now after two years of pandemic isolation;
  • enough library workers to make sure school libraries are open and reading opportunities are available to kids all the time;
  • enough custodians to keep schools clean and enough maintenance workers and tradespeople to begin to tackle the $16 billion repair backlog; and
  • adequate staffing of secretaries in school offices and enough lunchroom supervisors to keep students safe.

The Ford government cut education funding by at least $800 per student over its first term. With two million students in Ontario’s schools, which amounted to a $1.6 billion cut in funding last year alone.


Throne Speech Response, CUPE Manitoba President Gina McKay

CUPE Manitoba President Gina McKay offers the following response to today’s Manitoba Throne Speech:

Today’s Throne Speech was a disappointment. Not only did the government fail to introduce the concrete measures that are needed to improve health care, they are making things worse by prioritizing the privatization of Manitoba’s public services. 

The government wants to convince Manitobans that by expanding private delivery of diagnostic testing and surgeries that they can speed up wait times, but this simply isn’t true. There isn’t an untapped source of health care professionals waiting to operate these private clinics. If there was, they would be hired already. Any capacity added by private clinics will come at the expense of public operations.

There was absolutely nothing in today’s throne speech about investments’ in our public education system. After years of struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, students and education workers were looking for real commitments to improve our schools. But the message from Premier Stefanson was clear – students, teachers, and education workers are on their own.

There was discussion of new jobs, but a focus on private business investments and private sector opportunities was at the core of each announcement. We need the Manitoba government to commit to, and invest in, public service workers in all public sector work – including those noted today in the Throne Speech: libraries, schools, health care, child care, and social services.

It is crucial for the Manitoba government to ensure services are publicly funded, and not through private sector contributions that have returns on their investments. There should never be corporate monetary returns on public service work. 

This was a concerning Throne Speech from a tired government that’s run out of ideas and is gearing up to line the pockets of private investors. If anything, the pandemic should have taught us the value of our public services. But this government has a neoliberal agenda that looks for profits before quality health care, education, and public services. 

Manitoba’s public services are not for sale, and CUPE members in our province work for Manitoba. The 2023 election cannot come soon enough.

CUPE Manitoba applauds Ontario education workers’ win against Ford government’s attack on rights

CUPE Manitoba is sending the support of its 37,000 members to education workers in Ontario, who are returning to the bargaining table after the Conservative government stripped away their right to free collective bargaining, forcing them to walk off the job and hold political protests.

In a vote held last month, the 55,000 Ontario education workers voted 96.5% in favour of a strike mandate, and served strike notice. In response, the Conservative government of Doug Ford passed legislation to prevent a strike, making job action illegal and imposing a contract on workers. CUPE members in Ontario rejected this legislation, withdrew their services, and after two days of protests forced the government to withdraw its legislation.

“Through its use of the Notwithstanding Clause, the Conservative government of Ontario attempted to destroy the legal right of workers to strike and collectively bargain,” said Gina McKay, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“This was a historic attack on the democratic rights of Canadian citizens and must be opposed by Premiers from coast to coast to coast so it is never used again”.

The Ford government’s legislation invoked the Notwithstanding Clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a seldom-used provision designed for situations of competing rights or national emergencies, to pre-emptively deny workers their fundamental rights.

“This was a radical attempt at union-busting that strikes at the core of our democracy, and CUPE members said enough is enough, and won” said McKay.

“CUPE Manitoba condemns the actions of the Ford Conservatives and we call on Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson to commit that she will never interfere with collective bargaining”.

CUPE Manitoba will continue to provide support to CUPE Ontario members as they return to the negotiating table.


CUPE Manitoba Recognizes School Support Staff Recognition Week – Sept 26-30

The Province of Manitoba has declared the week of September 26 – 30, 2022 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 across Manitoba are critical to the success of children, youth and our shared community” says Gina McKay, President of CUPE Manitoba. “School support staff keep our schools safe and clean, get our kids to school safely, keep our schools running, and help our children and youth learn, grow, and succeed.”

Despite this, in the past two years school support staff at numerous school divisions have had to push for fairness in the workplace, and even went on strike, including CUPE 1630 custodians and cleaners at Rolling River School Division.

“While we take the time to celebrate our school support staff, we also urge the provincial government and school divisions to prioritize treating all staff with respect and work harder to ensure fairness in the workplace, which in-turn creates a more inclusive, safer, and better education system for everyone”.

CUPE Manitoba launched our annual ad, encouraging the community to “thank your school support staff”, reminding Manitobans that these staff are the pillars of our K-12 school system.

Download a copy of the Proclamation

Listen to our CUPE Manitoba School Division Sector radio ad

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

Manitoba Budget Continues to Fall Short

WINNIPEG – The 2022 Manitoba budget continues to put public services at risk, says CUPE Manitoba.

“Manitobans expect to see a budget that protects the public services they rely on,” says
Gina McKay, President of CUPE Manitoba.  “This government continues to cut taxes for ideological reasons rather than fully supporting our schools and health care facilities.”

CUPE is concerned that the government’s plan to reach a balanced budget by 2028 will come on the backs of Manitoba workers and public services families rely on.

“The government spent years cutting health care and eliminating full-time jobs, and now they pat themselves on the backs for this year’s budget,” added McKay.  “Manitobans won’t forget how this government decimated our health care system.”

“We are also deeply concerned that the government will look to privatizing, contracting out, and selling off public services in order to balance their budget,” says McKay.

“We are pleased that the government is providing wage support for community living workers,” says McKay. CUPE joined with MGEU and UFCW in a public campaign to call on the government to increase support for these critical workers.

“We need a government that takes bold steps to support public services, especially during a pandemic that is not yet over,” says McKay.  “This budget doesn’t do that.”

CUPE will continue to analyze the budget.


Strike at Rolling River School Division is over

After ninety-two days on the picket line, custodians and cleaners at the Rolling River School Division are heading back to work.

“These workers have been on the frontline keeping schools safe and clean but were pushed to the picket lines for three months in the coldest weather,” said Gina McKay, President of CUPE Manitoba. “These workers stood for fairness and didn’t back down despite all odds. We are very proud of them.”

On January 4, 2022, CUPE Local 1630 applied to the Manitoba Labour Board and asked them to help settle the dispute either by the Board or through a neutral arbitrator.

On January 31, 2022, the Labour Board issued an order to terminate the strike, reinstate the workers, and settle the provisions of a collective agreement.  The parties can either appoint an arbitrator or the Board will review the Union and employer’s proposals and aid in settling a new collective agreement within the next 90 days.

“We remain dumbfounded as to why this particular school division has refused to offer its custodians and cleaners the same as other school support staff across the province,” said McKay. “These workers deserve nothing less.”

The Rolling River School Division employed replacement workers throughout the strike, leading to substandard cleaning in schools across the region. Students at numerous schools joined the picket lines, calling on the school division to settle a fair agreement.

The picket line was also joined by CUPE National President, Mark Hancock, Canadian Labour Congress President, Bea Bruske, opposition parties, and countless other unions.

“Our members are happy to be getting back to the jobs they love, and the students they care for,” said McKay.

The CUPE 1630 strike began on November 1, 2021, and officially ended on February 1, 2022.

School Support Staff at Lord Selkirk School Division Ratify Collective Agreement

SELKIRK, MB – Education assistants, custodians, school librarians, secretaries, and other support staff at the Lord Selkirk School Division have voted in favour of a new collective agreement.

“School support staff at Lord Selkirk School Division have been on the frontlines keeping our kids safe throughout the pandemic and have dedicated every moment to supporting the education of our students,” says Karen Sinnock, President of CUPE 1522.

“We are pleased that the Lord Selkirk School Division has offered us a fair deal that is in line with what teachers and support staff represented by CUPE in other school divisions received.”

CUPE 1522 had a strike mandate from members, and organized information pickets to raise awareness across Selkirk about the value of school support staff.

CUPE 1522 and the Lord Selkirk School Division agreed to the same four-year deal that teachers across Manitoba received: 1.6%, 1.4%, 0.5%, and cost-of-living adjustment.

Twenty-three other CUPE locals have already settled this same agreement between school divisions in Manitoba and support staff represented by CUPE.

Custodians and cleaners at Rolling River School Division represented by CUPE 1630 are entering their fourth week on strike and are asking for the same.

“At this point the Rolling River School Division is putting our schools at risk, while stubbornly refusing to offer what everyone else is offering,” said Kevin Jay, President of CUPE 1630.

“Rolling River School Division needs to step up, offer us the same deal, and let us get back to work.”

Rolling River School Division Custodians and Cleaners Set Strike Date

MINNEDOSA, MB – Custodians and cleaners at the Rolling River School Division have notified the school board that they will begin legal strike action on Monday, November 1, 2021, at 12:00 am. 


“We have done everything to try to prevent a strike, but the Rolling River School Division has left us little choice,” said Kevin Jay, President of CUPE 1630, representing the division’s 21 custodians and cleaners. “All we are asking for is the same respect that teachers and other support staff in Manitoba have already received.”

CUPE 1630 are asking for the same four-year deal that teachers across Manitoba received: 1.6%, 1.4%, 0.5%, and cost-of-living adjustment.

Twenty-four CUPE locals have already settled this agreement between school divisions in Manitoba and support staff represented by CUPE.

“What we’re feeling is that custodians and cleaners in Rolling River School Division aren’t worth the same as in Winnipeg and other divisions,” said Jay. “We urge the school board to make the right call and offer us the same deal as everyone else so we can focus on our jobs—keeping schools safe and clean.”

The strike will begin at the Minnedosa Collegiate and the Rolling River School Division Board Office at 154 3rd Avenue SE, Minnedosa, Manitoba.