Brandon School Division Support Staff Vote for Strike Mandate

BRANDON, Manitoba – School support staff in the Brandon School Division have voted 99% in favour of strike action.

“School support staff have been critical throughout the pandemic in helping our kids succeed,” says Jamie Rose, President of CUPE 737 representing support staff in the Brandon School Division. “This has been an incredibly challenging year for staff, yet the Division is still hanging on to the Pallister government’s unconstitutional wage mandate”.

School support staff have been without a new contract since 2018, as a result of Pallister’s unconstitutional interference in collective bargaining. Support staff are asking for wage increases in line with recently settled teachers’ contracts.

“Staff take these votes seriously, and the 99% support for a strike mandate tells us school support staff feel disrespected, undervalued, and deserve support”, said Rose.

This strike mandate also comes at the same time that the Pallister government announced $146 million in education property tax refunds, which have been widely criticized as taking much needed money out of the school system.

A strike committee has been established, no date for a strike has been set.

CUPE 737 represents approximately 600 school support staff in the Brandon School Division, including Education Assistants, Bus Drivers, Custodians, Maintenance, Library Techs, Secretaries, and more.

Interlake School Division school custodians, trades, and mechanics ratify new agreement

STONEWALL, MANITOBA – School custodians, trades, and mechanics represented by CUPE Local 2972 and the Interlake School Division have ratified a new collective agreement.

“Custodians, tradespeople, and mechanics have been critical throughout the pandemic in helping keep our schools safe and running,” says Lee McLeod, CUPE Regional Director.

“The agreement between CUPE 2972 and Interlake School Division is the second school support staff contract that defies the Pallister wage freeze and includes raises in line with those agreed to by school divisions and the Manitoba Teachers’ Society. We want to thank the Interlake School Division for their leadership in reaching this agreement.”

Wage increases are in line with recently negotiated teacher’s agreements and are retroactive:  1.6% in 2019, 1.4% in 2020, 0.5% in 2021, and a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2022.

The agreement between CUPE 2972 and Interlake School Division helps set a pattern for school support staff in Manitoba, following CUPE 3164’s similar wage settlement at Evergreen School Division announced on June 8, 2021.

“The Pallister government has done everything they can to stop school support staff from negotiating fair contracts, so we are proud that CUPE support staff are leaders at the bargaining table”.

CUPE 2972 represents approximately 45 school support staff at the Interlake School Division, including custodians, trades, and bus mechanics.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees represent approximately 6,000 education workers, including education assistants, custodians, bus drivers, clerical, library techs, intercultural liaisons, and more in 25 school boards across Manitoba.

Evergreen School Division School Support Staff ratify new agreement

GIMLI, MANITOBA – School support staff represented by CUPE Local 3164 and the Evergreen School Division have ratified a new collective agreement.

“School support staff have been on the front lines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, helping keep our kids and schools safe, and providing critical support in the classroom,” says Lee McLeod, CUPE Regional Director.

“The agreement between CUPE 3164 and Evergreen School Division ensures school support staff receive raises that are consistent with those recently negotiated by the Manitoba Teachers’ Society. We want to thank the Evergreen School Division for their leadership in reaching this agreement, despite the provincial government’s attempts to prevent wage increases for school support staff in Manitoba.”

Wage increases are in line with recently negotiated teacher’s agreements, and are retroactive:

1.6% in 2019, 1.4% in 2020, and 0.5% in 2021.

The agreement between CUPE 3164 and Evergreen School Division is the first freely negotiated (settled without arbitration) school support staff settlement in Manitoba to break the 0%, 0%, 0.75%, 1.0% wage mandate of the Pallister government. This wage mandate was originally part of The Public Services Sustainability Act–legislation that was ruled unconstitutional by the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench in 2020.

The Pallister government is also holding school divisions hostage with Bill 64, threatening their very existence and ability to negotiate directly with their own staff.

“The Pallister government has done everything they can to stop school support staff from negotiating a new contract, so we are proud that the CUPE support staff at Evergreen School Division and the School Division leadership reached a fair agreement”, says McLeod. “We expect other school divisions will follow Evergreen’s lead and agree to fair settlements with other CUPE locals.”

CUPE Local 3164 represents approximately 150 school support staff at the Evergreen School Division, including education assistants, bus drivers, school secretaries, maintenance and trades, library staff, and ECEs.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees represent approximately 6,000 education workers, including education assistants, custodians, bus drivers, clerical, library techs, intercultural liaisons and more in 25 school boards across Manitoba.

School support staff speak out against Pallister’s K-12 Education Review, Bill 64

WINNIPEG – The union representing approximately 6,000 K-12 education workers in Manitoba is speaking out against the Pallister government’s education review and Education Modernization Act (Bill 64) announced today.


“The Pallister conservatives are driving their ideological agenda with an unprecedented attack on our local democracy, and this time it will affect our children”, said Lee McLeod, Canadian Union of Public Employees’ Regional Director. “School support staff are worried that such a major overhaul will result in cuts to education, will leave our most vulnerable students and parents with fewer resources, and even less ability to raise their concerns and needs.”


“If Pallister’s health care reforms taught us anything, it’s that they hurt our health care system and left it vulnerable when the pandemic struck,” said McLeod. “Now Pallister is using a pre-pandemic report to upend our education system, ignoring all the critical lessons we learned over the past twelve months.”


CUPE also notes that Bill 64’s elimination of school divisions will result in less public control and accountability of local schools. Parents, community members, and staff often approach local school boards and make presentations on how to improve schools in their areas. This legislation will eliminate important public oversight of our school system.


“Manitoba is unique in that our diverse communities have direct input into their school system through their locally elected school boards,” said McLeod. “This government wants to remove all of that local decision making and replace it with their own centralized, hand-picked appointees on Broadway. Toothless advisory boards will leave parents and families with no real voice in education”.


The Canadian Union of Public Employees represent approximately 6,000 education workers, including education assistants, custodians, bus drivers, clerical, library techs, intercultural liaisons and more in 25 school boards across Manitoba.

Read the full report here:

Read more about the government’s plans here:

Public services in Manitoba are in trouble under Pallister: CUPE responds to Throne Speech

If the government plans to do to education, what they did to health care, then Manitoba is in really big trouble, says CUPE Manitoba representing 36,000 workers in the province.

“The province’s ongoing health reforms led to worker fatigue and staff shortages before the pandemic started, and now those issues have become even worse,” says Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“The looming threat of education reform has already impacted morale among front-line workers and educators in the school system at a time when the focus should be entirely on supporting our kids.”

Any report on education reform that was written before the pandemic is now archaic and should be scrapped, according to CUPE.

“We now know the value of having distinct school boards in our diverse communities who can respond directly to the needs of families, as well as the critical importance of ensuring school support staff have the resources they need to help keep our kids safe and help deliver the best quality education possible. Now is not the time for education reform,” said Araya.

The elimination of the education property tax will further erode school divisions abilities to respond to the education needs of their communities.

Health care in distress

On the health care front, CUPE continues to call on the government to increase staffing levels in long term care homes and provide robust paid sick leave to health care support staff who self-isolate.

“CUPE has called on the government to address the now systemic issue of working short in health care prior to the pandemic, and now we are seeing the very serious impact this is having on staff and residents,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE 204 representing 14,000 health care workers in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health.

“The government plans capital upgrades in long-term care facilities, but why won’t the government meet with us to discuss staffing levels? Why won’t the government act now to ensure our support staff and residents get the care they deserve?”

While the federal government recently announced 10 paid sick days for Canadian workers who are impacted by the pandemic, it does not go nearly far enough to support front-line staff who have already used up their sick banks and vacation time for the 14-day self-isolation period.

Some workers have already self-isolated more than once, and the Provincial government should fill that gap.

“Health care workers, including home care, need to be assured that they won’t be financially penalized because they take self-isolation and the wellbeing of their residents seriously,” says Boissonneault.

“Health care workers have been on the front-line in the fight against COVID from the start, and they need to be able to continue fighting for the months and maybe years to come. Those limited sick days are critical in ensuring they can take the time away from health care settings if they get ill – COVID or otherwise.”

CUPE is also deeply concerned that the provincial government may be considering privatizing home care services for seniors.

“Home care must remain public,” said Boissonneault. “Private profit has no place in the delivery of health care services to our elders, and this government must not be allowed to privatize this critical service for Manitoba seniors.”

Child care “choice” concerning

CUPE is concerned that this government is going to move further in the direction of private-for-profit child care under the guise of “choice,” while letting the non-profit child care centres continue to struggle under the combined challenges of inadequate funding and COVID-related challenges.

Manitoba Hydro’s future uncertain

Pallister is chipping away at Manitoba Hydro, carving out Power Smart, privatizing Hydro’s money-making subsidiaries, and forcing staff into furloughs despite the continued need for a strong public energy utility, says CUPE.

“Pallister is leading Hydro down the path of privatization and CUPE is afraid he could use the pandemic as an excuse to sell off Hydro in whole or in part to pay down the debt,” says Araya.  “This government has been making very strategic cuts to Hydro, and Manitobans should be very concerned with Pallister’s agenda for Hydro.”

Lastly, CUPE urges the provincial government to support the thousands of Manitoba workers who have been without a contract since the unconstitutional wage freeze legislation was introduced.

“If Pallister cared about working people, he would get to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal for the thousands of front-line workers who have been stepping up to the plate to protect Manitobans every single day.”

CUPE Manitoba celebrates School Support Staff Recognition Week, Sept 28 – October 2, 2020

The Province of Manitoba has declared the week of September 28 – October 2, 2020 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. CUPE is launching a radio ad to let parents, families, educators, and students know.

“Manitobans know how critical school support staff are for our K-12 education system”, says Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba and a school support worker himself. “We help keep our schools safe and clean, get our kids to school safely, keep our schools running, and help our children learn, grow, and succeed”.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of support staff, with thousands of support workers mobilizing to keep our classroom, buses and facilities as safe as possible. Support staff are also stepping up to ensure our community’s children are able to cope with the very different learning environment this year.

“Recognizing school support staff goes beyond a proclaimed recognition week – we need governments at all levels to step up and ensure stronger workplace health & safety, better working conditions, and improved workplace contracts so staff can have security and stability in their lives.”

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.

CUPE also calls on the Manitoba Government and Winnipeg School Division to immediately resolve the UFCW 832 school bus drivers’ strike by getting to the bargaining table and negotiating a fair deal for workers.

“Celebrating our members’ work is important, but we also need to stand in solidarity with these workers and support them in their efforts to get a fair deal,” said Araya. “An insult to one is an insult to all”.

Download a copy of the proclamation:
Letter from Minister Goertzen
Letter from CUPE to Minister Goertzen

CUPE represents school support staff, including education assistants, custodians, cleaners, school bus drivers, library technicians, intercultural & community liaisons, trades persons, office administrative staff, and more in 25 School Divisions across Manitoba.

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.


DJ/wkp/cope 491

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.