#paintABpurple day of action for education support workers

CUPE’s Alberta Education Employees Committee (AEEC) has been hard at work planning events and actions in support of education support workers across the province. They deserve to be paid fair wages that reflect their enormous contribution to kids’ learning and to the public good. Amid the skyrocketing cost of living, Support staff earn an average salary of $34,300. Some jobs, like Educational Assistants, make even less ($26,400). Education workers have not had a wage increase in eight years.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024, we are going to #paintABpurple! We are asking all Albertans to wear purple that day in solidarity with education support workers, and we need you to help make it a big success.

We encourage everyone to post pictures on social media that day using the hashtag #paintABpurple to show their support for education support workers being paid fair wages. AEEC is also planning to engage the media that day to send the message that $34,300 is not enough for education supporter workers or anyone.

Please mark April 3, 2024, in your calendar and stay tuned for further updates on how you can show solidarity with education support workers as they demand to be paid a living wage. Your support for this day of action is critical — we’re stronger when we stand together.


Protesters brave snow to send a message to the Premier

Fresh snow and cold temperatures didn’t stop CUPE members from sending a message to Premier Danielle Smith about Alberta’s rising cost of living and stagnating wages. The crowd gathered outside Smith’s Medicine Hat constituency office. Members called on the premier to address the cost-of-living crisis by investing in public services and ending restrictive mandates that are keeping workers’ wage increases well below inflation.

Over 200 attendees heard impassioned speeches from front-line workers about the toll low wages and understaffing are taking on their lives. Several leaders from other unions, including HSAA, AUPE and the Alberta Federation of Labour spoke about the common struggle that all workers in Alberta are facing and the need to take on Danielle Smith and the UCP together. CUPE National President Mark Hancock finished with a fiery speech about the major fights CUPE members have taken on in other provinces in the past few years, “the next stop,” he concluded, “is right here in Alberta.”

Rennick: Increased resources for the fight ahead

In her virtual address to the convention, CUPE Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennick highlighted the resources allocated in the recent annual budget for the battles and fights in Alberta.

“CUPE’s 2024 budget adopted last December is designed to help you be at the forefront of change, to be brave and bold,” said Rennick.

The budget created 41.5 new positions across the country, including two permanent servicing representatives in Alberta, a temporary job evaluation representative and a political action representative. The budget also made the Alberta Organizing Representative a permanent position.

“We all know our union can’t meet the many challenges that employers and governments are throwing at us without more staff,” said Rennick. “I get this. Mark gets this. The National Executive Board gets this.” Rennick pledged to  “continue to expand staff resources next year and the years after” as wage and membership growth allow.

Hancock: We live in a moment which feels like everything is at stake

CUPE’s National President Mark Hancock addressed convention delegates with a rallying cry to fight inflation, the cost of living and right-wing politicians.

“We are fighting our way through an enormous cost-of-living crisis, workers are feeling desperate and anxious,” said Hancock. “Most people can’t remember a time when it was this difficult to put a roof over their head, put gas in their car, and put food on their table.”

But Hancock also noted that as the largest union in Canada, CUPE has the power to fight for workers against the impacts of inflation.

“We have proven time and time again that we are up for anything.  Across the country in the past few years, we have shown how much we can accomplish when we stand together.”

Hancock took aim at Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, saying she is ignoring the key issues of workers in the province.

“Instead of working to rebuild health care, instead of addressing the cost-of-living crisis, Danielle Smith is attacking some of the most vulnerable young people in our society,” Hancock
said. “She’s fanning the flames of hate and making schools less safe for trans kids.”

With three-quarters of the Alberta public service in bargaining, Hancock said 2024 is a key moment to fight for better wages and benefits.

“My friends, we have the power and the responsibility to fight inflation and help our members put food on the table. We have the power and responsibility to build better communities by protecting and strengthening public services.”

Gill: CUPE Alberta Waging Ahead with a new approach on wages

With a hostile government in the Alberta Legislature, and crippling inflation hurting the buying power of workers, CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill used his convention report to stress the need to focus on wages in the days and months ahead.

Gill said that wages for CUPE members are not keeping up with inflation. “We should be unapologetic about demanding good wages, good benefits and good pensions for the people who do our jobs.”

Gill just completed a two week, 18-meeting “Waging Ahead” tour across the province hearing from workers about low wages.

“The stories we heard were heartfelt and emotional, but the determination to fight for something better was inspirational.”

Delegates heard Gill warn that the only way to get higher wages was to fight for them, and the only ones who can fight for them are workers themselves.

“The government won’t save us, the courts won’t save us, we need to stand up and be ready to walk.”

With over 250,000 public sector workers negotiating new contracts in 2024, Gill said there was a big opportunity to substantially raise the wages of members.

“We should be unapologetic about demanding good wages, good benefits and good pensions for the people who do our jobs.”

Budget 24 – Low wages and poor services

Wages to fall further behind, services will crumble.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, Alberta Division President Rory Gill says Alberta’s Budget 2024 is a recipe for ‘low wages and poor services.’

Gill says that while the government is offering wage increases of 2% per year to public employees, budget documents admit that the cost of living is projected to increase by at least 2.5% in 2024 alone.

“Workers who have not had wage increases for up to eight years will see another year of falling behind,” said Gill.

Gill was also critical of funding for important public services like education, health and social services which don’t keep up with inflation. Over the term of the budget, inflation and population are set to increase by 6.2%, but funding is stalled at 3.9%.

“Conservatives have been starving public services for years,” said Gill. “Budget 24 continues the tradition and marks one more year of making things worse.”

CUPE was critical of the so-called ‘attraction bonus’ of $5,000 in tax credits for new workers. “How will that work, give someone five grand and then pay them a wage that never keeps up with inflation? Add that to the chance of losing access to the Canada Pension Plan and the new pharmacare plan and it’s a wonder anyone would move here.”

Gill also noted that an attraction bonus does nothing to retain workers already residing in Alberta.

Other budget highlights include:

  • A 6% reduction in health care by 2027- after factoring inflation and population increases.
  • A 7.3% reduction in Education (both k12 and post-secondary) by 2027 after factoring inflation and population growth.
  • An 11% reduction in Social Services by 2027 after factoring inflation and population growth.
  • Nothing to address record utility prices, car insurance, home insurance, or housing cos