School workers protest low wages, education funding

CALGARY – Education support staff across Alberta will wear purple t-shirts in schools today to raise awareness of low wage levels and the enormous positive impact these workers have on learning, childrens’ lives, and communities generally.

The workers, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) say that the average wage for K-12 support staff is just $34,300 per year. Educational Assistants, who work with special needs students in classrooms make even less just $26,400 on average.

Educational workers have not had a cost-of-living increase in over eight years. Inflation has pushed many wages below poverty lines. Across the province, positions are vacant in schools because wages are not high enough to attract new staff.

Abbie Mitchell is a custodial worker at the Calgary Board of Education. She has worked there for 11 years and has never had a pay increase. She says she loves her work, but she can’t make a living.

“I love the kids, I love the parents and the teachers, and I work hard to keep the schools clean and well run, but I can’t make a living,” said Mitchell.

Katey Schmidt is an Educational Assistant in Lethbridge. She has never had a wage increase. She works two jobs to make ends meet and is looking for a third.

“I love working with kids, they teach me things every day,” said Schmidt. “But I don’t know how much longer I can handle the stress of juggling two jobs and barely keeping up financially.”

According to the government’s own figures, there are fewer Educational Assistants working in schools today than there were last year.

Figures from the Alberta Teachers’ Association show Alberta ranking last among provinces in Canada in per student funding.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill called on the UCP to improve wages for school workers. “Funding has dropped, and school districts are told to keep wage increases to zero,” said Gill “It’s time for the province to let us catch up.”

Statement from Rory Gill, President of CUPE Alberta

This Wednesday, conservative groups will protest at schools other public locations against the rights of trans and non-binary youth.

Not only are these protests aimed at the most vulnerable people in our communities (trans youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide), but these protests only take attention away from important issues in education.

Alberta has the lowest per-pupil education funding in Canada. Over 2,200 positions for Educational Assistants disappeared last year. School support workers in Alberta have not had cost of living increases in over eight years. Class sizes are increasing. School support workers earn wages below the poverty line. These are just some of the actual issues facing young people and parents.

CUPE Alberta is absolutely opposed to any actions or events that that target the rights of trans and non-binary youth. We will stand for love, acceptance, and solidarity among all 2SLGBTQ+ persons.

School support workers have a scheduled ‘purple shirt day’ for Wednesday. We will carry on with that action, as we believe school funding, and the wages of staff who keep kids safe are important and need to be addressed.

Hatred has no place in Alberta schools.

Mobilizing for Bargaining

In these 3-hour ONLINE workshops, Locals will learn to assess how well their members are engaged.  The session covers building power by mobilizing members to build solidarity and support for the Bargaining Committee.

All Alberta Education Sector Workers are welcome. 

Registration closes 48 hours prior to the workshop date.

 

3 HOUR WORKSHOP

6 PM—9 PM MST

 

Click on one of the dates below to register:

Wages for educational assistants go down, drop below poverty line

CALGARY – The average wage for Albertans working as educational assistants (EAs) in the province’s school districts has dropped below the poverty line.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) President Rory Gill, Alberta Division, says the drop is reflective of a government underfunding education, and the fact education workers have not had a wage increase in eight years.

According to provincial government stats, published on their own website, the average wage for an educational assistant has dropped from $27,500 per year in 2022 to $26,400 in 2023. The hourly rate of pay has dropped from $22.40 to $20.58.

The federal government defines low income as any income that falls below 50% of the median income of a geographic area. That puts the Alberta poverty line at $26,550, slightly higher than the average salary for educational assistants.

The government website also indicates that the number of EA positions in Alberta schools has dropped from 16,800 to 14,600.

Educational assistants work in classrooms with special needs students and allow teachers to focus on instruction, while EAs implement programming.

Gill says school districts have been cutting hours to address funding shortfalls, and school instruction is taking a hit. Gill says many school districts are having trouble recruiting and retaining staff.

“Educational funding isn’t matching enrollment,” said Gill. “Add to that the fact that most educational workers have not seen a cost-of-living increase in over eight years, and you have school support workers living below the poverty line.”

“At a time of record inflation, educational assistants are losing income. That’s the UCP legacy so far.”

“Educational workers are bargaining right now, and the government is offering almost nothing. The people who educate and care for kids deserve a living wage. The Smith government has to act.”

ACTION ALERT: CUPE members, other education workers, parents and public are wearing purple on Wednesday September 20th to show our concern about the low wages and low funding in Alberta schools. Join us.

Statement regarding the use of a WestJet flight Public Address (PA) system by Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre.


CALGARY — CUPE Local 4070 represents cabin crew employees at WestJet. Local President Alia Hussain issued the following statement today:

“It’s very disappointing that WestJet management let a politician use the public address (PA) system on a recent flight for his political statement. It is doubly disappointing that WestJet is now trying to assign blame on the cabin crew for this event. The cabin crew had no input into this decision.

WestJet’s own work rules state clearly that no one other than operating crew are to use the public address system.

A plane’s cabin crew should never be put in a position of having to take a political stance. Giving Mr. Poilievre a platform showed bad judgement by WestJet. Mr. Poilievre showed bad judgement taking that opportunity. It is the cabin crew who deal with passenger complaints. Westjet management and Mr. Poilievre should not have put them in that position.

A flight’s PA system should be used to give passengers information they need and require. The crew is responsible for the safety of everyone on board, and we take that responsibility seriously.

WestJet management and Mr. Poilievre owe passengers and crew an apology.”

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#paintABpurple day of action for education support workers

 

CUPE’s Alberta Education Employees Committee (AEEC) has been hard at work planning events and actions for the fall 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.

On Wednesday, September 20, 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 September 20 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.

:meaa/COPE 491

Failed lab services privatization experiment shows profits don’t belong in Alberta health care

CALGARY—The Alberta government announced today that medical laboratory services provided by DynaLIFE will be transferred back to Alberta Precision Laboratories (APL), a subsidiary of publicly owned Alberta Health Services (AHS). DynaLIFE’s message to all staff stated, “This transition to AHS will allow resources to be more effectively deployed across the province, enhancing patient care.”

“This is a victory for public health care and a serious indictment of experiments in privatizing our public services,” said CUPE Alberta Division President Rory Gill. “When politicians turn our health care system into a profit-making venture for corporations, they spend as little as possible on front-line services to ensure their shareholders make money. The result is that patient care suffers. Lab services are returning to where they belong—under the umbrella of public health care.”

CUPE Local 8 represents drivers who transport lab samples across southern Alberta for DynaLIFE. These workers have been through multiple changes of employers in recent years, from Calgary Laboratory Services to DynaLIFE to Alberta Public Laboratories (later renamed Alberta Precision Laboratories), back to DynaLIFE again, and now back under APL.

“These drivers are providing life-saving services to Albertans as they transport vital lab samples across southern Alberta,” said Kelly Spence, President of CUPE Local 8. “They are simply trying to do their jobs, and they don’t deserve the chaos they’ve been put through by the government.”

Paying southern Alberta DynaLIFE drivers fairly would help fix staffing shortages

Media Release issued:

Short staffing of drivers for DynaLIFE in southern Alberta is being driven, at least in part, by low wages compared to their northern Alberta counterparts. The southern Alberta drivers, represented by CUPE Local 8, were in bargaining today with their employer and highlighted the disparity, which ranges from a 13% gap at the bottom of the pay scale to a 19% gap at the top. The drivers have been in the current round of bargaining for more than two years.

“Short staffing of essential positions like this is a risk to the public,” said Kelly Spence, President of CUPE Local 8. “These are the drivers in southern Alberta who are transporting lab samples that are saving people’s lives every day. But when workers aren’t compensated fairly, positions are difficult to fill, and the system is strained.”

Spence also highlighted the importance of maintaining pensions for the DynaLIFE drivers, who are part of the Local Authorities Pension Plan (LAPP).

“It’s imperative that pensions for all workers are maintained and strengthened, whether we’re talking about workplace pensions or about the broader issue of protecting the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) for all Albertans,” said Spence. “The aim for governments and employers alike should be to make retirement better for Alberta workers, not worse.”

Union representing City of Chestermere workers to hold community meet & greets

Photo credit: City of Chestermere

CHESTERMERE — The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 37, which represents City of Chestermere employees, is hosting meet and greets for the community tomorrow and Friday, August 11. Elected leaders and staff of the union will be present to speak with the workers, community members, and local media about the importance of the services they provide, along with facts about the union.

“City of Chestermere employees voted last year to join the union to give them a voice in their workplace that will be heard and respected,” said CUPE Alberta Division President Rory Gill. “These are the workers you see clearing the snow and repairing the roads, collecting the garbage and recycling, keeping the city parks maintained, and enforcing community safety among many other city services. These workers are the union, and we are proud to represent them and support them.”

Meet and greet locations:

  • City Hall (105 Marina Rd, Chestermere) at 7:30 a.m.
  • Fire Station (156 E Chestermere Dr, Chestermere) at 7:00 a.m.
  • Public Works (281107 Township Rd 243, Chestermere) at 7:00 a.m.

CUPE responds to K-12 Mandate Letter

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill made the following statement today in response to Danielle Smith’s education mandate letter. CUPE represents over 10,000 school support staff across Alberta.

“Danielle Smith’s mandate letter to the Minister of Education does almost nothing to address the biggest concerns of Albertans. The UCP has already stepped away from their promise to hire almost 1,400 Educational Assistants. Now, their refusal to address stagnant wages will only make the situation worse.

The average wage for Educational Assistants in Alberta is just $27,500 per year. These dedicated workers are falling further behind every day and need an immediate, meaningful and sustained increase to their wages so they can keep working in public education. School districts are already losing staff due to underfunding and wages that fall further and further into poverty levels.

The dedicated, and vastly underpaid school workers are suffering. The people who keep our kids safe, on track, and learning need help to allow them to do what they love.

We work for Alberta kids. Danielle Smith should recognize that and work to treat our members with dignity. Kids are counting on it.”