Over 10,000 education workers serve notice to bargain

Today, the union representing 10,000 school support workers served simultaneous notice to bargain to 41 school districts for the contracts of education workers. CUPE represents school administrative staff, educational assistants, custodial workers and other classifications in the school system.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill explained that the 41 different CUPE Locals have never engaged in this level of co-ordination, but said the notice represents an historic shift in the union’s approach.

“We’re not going to let the province pick us apart one school district at a time,” said Gill. “Our members are determined to get the respect they deserve.”

Gill said the average education worker in Alberta makes $34,000 a year. According to provincial government figures, Educational Assistants make only $27,000.

“Poverty level wages and a decade of losing ground to inflation has changed our approach,” said Gill. “Our locals are working together and will stand together as we fight for salaries that pay the rent.”

“Education workers play a key role in our schools,” said Gill. “But too many of them are working multiple jobs or relying upon the food bank. It’s shameful the lack of respect we pay to people with such a high level of responsibility and passion for students.”

More bargaining turmoil in Calgary

Library workers walk out of talks after ‘insulting’ offer

CALGARY – The union representing library workers in the City of Calgary has walked away from the bargaining table after the city offered a wage deal lower than that rejected by two other groups of civic workers.

CUPE 1169 President Elsa Gee says the union will seek the assistance of a mediator and will consult and coordinate with other union groups looking for wage increases.

“The deal we were offered today is insulting,” said Gee. “It’s less than the city is offering other groups. Less than those other groups that have turned them down. Apparently, the city believes library workers are immune from record inflation.”

Gee says the City has offered 7% wage increases over three years, which is lower than the 9% offered to CUPE Locals 37 and 38, and rejected by both groups.

“This doesn’t come close to addressing the needs of employees,” said Gee. “Calgary Public Library workers are facing unprecedented financial challenges. Many are struggling to make ends meet, relying on food banks, and are deeply worried about paying their rent and bills.”

“Despite these hardships, employees remain dedicated to their work and the public services they provide to the citizens of Calgary.”

“The work CUPE members do is vital to the functioning of our city. However, the city must understand that employees are stretched thin and can no longer bear the financial strain they are under.”

“We urge the Calgary Public Library to recognize and address the critical needs of their employees.”

CUPE 37 members reject City of Calgary wage package

Calgary, AB – Matt Sjogren, President of CUPE 37 (City of Calgary outside workers) issued the following statement after employees rejected a contract settlement offer.

“Last night, the members of CUPE 37 rejected a memorandum of settlement of 9% wage increases over a three-year period.

This vote sends a strong and clear message to the City of Calgary about the severe impact of inflation on our members.

City employees are facing unprecedented financial challenges. Many are struggling to make ends meet, relying on food banks, and are deeply worried about paying their mortgages and bills. Despite these hardships, employees remain dedicated to their work and the essential public services they provide to the citizens of Calgary.

The work CUPE members do is vital to the functioning of our city. However, the city must understand that employees are stretched thin and can no longer bear the financial strain they are under.

We urge the City of Calgary to recognize and address the urgent needs of their employees.

Thank you for your attention and continued support.”

#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.”