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EDUCATION WORKERS' STEERING COMMITTEE ANNUAL CONFERENCE | OCTOBER 13-15, 2016

Greetings Delegates,

Saskatchewan’s education system is at a crossroads.

After overhauling the education funding model, the provincial government is critically underfunding school divisions - leading to a high number of layoffs and cuts to the working hours of education support staff. As a result, our dedicated members are bearing the brunt of these growing budget cuts. The budget cuts correspondingly have a real consequence for children. The decrease in support staff will undoubtedly impact the health and well-being of students, and children who require additional support will struggle in school without access to the support they need and deserve. In addition to critical underfunding and cuts, the provincial government has recently been musing about school board mergers and restructuring, which is creating uncertainty for parents, staff, and school boards.

Over this past year, the CUPE Saskatchewan Education Workers’ Steering Committee (EWSC) has worked diligently to launch a new campaign on education underfunding to build public awareness and member activism ahead of municipal and school board elections slated to take place on October 26, 2016. In addition to this chief concern, the EWSC has continued its work on a number of key issues including the Municipal Employees’ Pension Plan (MEPP), occupational health and safety concerns, and seeking to find common ground among locals approaching bargaining.

As chair, I am proud of the work the EWSC has done over this past year on behalf of CUPE education locals. We nonetheless have more work to do together with misguided provincial government decisions causing unprecedented challenges and cuts in school divisions.

The following are highlights of the EWSC’s activities over the past year since the 2015 Annual Conference.

Where’s the funding?

In May of 2016, the EWSC launched a province-wide campaign to raise awareness of the funding challenges in K-12 education. The campaign is called “Where’s the funding?” and features billboards, a website (www.wheresthefunding.ca), and a postcard campaign to send a message to Premier Wall. I encourage you to visit the website and Facebook page for the campaign, and share with your friends and family.

School board elections on October 26, 2016

School board elections in communities across the province are slated to take place on October 26, 2016. The EWSC has worked with CUPE Saskatchewan, the CLC, and area labour councils to identify and support a number of progressive school board candidates in both Regina and Saskatoon.

Retirement security for CUPE members in the Municipal Employees’ Pension Plan

The education sector has over 20 CUPE locals enrolled in the Municipal Employees’ Pension Plan and CUPE, together with members from municipal and library sector locals, comprise approximately 40 percent of active MEPP members.

In 2015, the Minister of Finance appointed Nancy Croll to conduct a review on the composition of the Commission. CUPE Saskatchewan’s submission pointed out that there is a substantial lack of union member representation on the governing board of the pension plan and, accordingly, recommended all employee representatives on the Commission be union appointed from among the unions representing members enrolled in MEPP.

We are pleased that among the recommendations by consultant Nancy Croll included the creation of a CUPE designated seat on the commission. The provincial government’s full response to the recommendations made by Croll and the report can be found at: www.peba.gov.sk.ca/pensions/mepp.

Preparing for the retirement of the current union representative on the Commission, the EWSC with the support of CUPE National and CUPE Saskatchewan selected and provided training for a new union representative.

Health and Safety Committees in schools

There persists concern among CUPE locals across school divisions that Occupational Health Committees are not fully following the legislative framework or union representatives of the committees meet unnecessary resistance from employers in raising issues. Furthermore, we have expressed the need for our members to have improved training and resources to address incidents of violence in the workplace.

These issues were raised by the EWSC in the meeting held with the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) in March of this year, following-up from an initial meeting on this subject held last year with the Minister of Education and Labour Relations and Workplace Safety.

The EWSC will continue to press for more action by the SSBA and school divisions, which remains unacceptably slow.




Privatization of new schools through Public-Private Partnerships (P3s)

The Government of Saskatchewan has moved ahead with its misguided plan to privatize the building and operation of nine new joint-use schools through Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) schemes which have the potential to result in job loss for education support workers, have already been proven in other provinces to be a costly mistake diverting valuable dollars for education to corporate profits, and removes public control of our schools which are at the heart of our communities. These P3 schools are scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.

The EWSC, in our annual meeting with the SSBA, continued to highlight concerns with P3 schools and the uncertain future of CUPE support staff in P3 schools. Again, the SSBA and the provincial government have left workers in the dark over the details on the P3 contracts and the future of CUPE support staff jobs in these new schools.

The Saskatchewan Employment Act and Supervisors

There remains concern in the education sector about the supervisory provisions in The Saskatchewan Employment Act. CUPE National and CUPE Saskatchewan have since taken steps to address the wider issue. CUPE has filed a notice of constitutional question in the cases of three employers who are attempting to unilaterally remove unionized supervisors out of the bargaining unit of their choosing. President Graham has said that CUPE will fight any employer who moves forward with attempting to exclude supervisory members with every tool in our tool box, including legal avenues.

Essential Services

After the long legal battle against the provincial government’s unconstitutional essential services legislation, Saskatchewan now has new essential services legislation in effect this year. Bill 128 which repeals The Public Service Essential Services Act, the original essential services law struck down by the Supreme Court in January of 2015, establishes a new “essential services” process. The newly enacted legislation restores more balance to collective bargaining and removes the unconstitutional restrictions of the former legislation.

Conclusion

I would like to thank all members of the EWSC Executive Board for their dedication and work.

The EWSC Executive wishes to convey our appreciation for the support provided by Sister Aina Kagis, Regional Director; Sister Judy Henley, CUPE National Regional Vice President; Sister Cheryl Stadnichuk, National Research Representative; and Sister Tria Donaldson, National Communications Representative.

Thanks goes out to Brother Tom Graham, President of CUPE Saskatchewan Division, and the Division staff: Sister Jodi Reavley, Office Clerk; and Brother Nathan Markwart, Executive Assistant, for all their support and assistance.

Most importantly, thank you to delegates for the honour and privilege to serve you as chair of the EWSC.

I am proud of the work we were able to accomplish on behalf and for our fellow CUPE education support workers.

In solidarity,



JACKIE CHRISTIANSON
Chair, Education Workers’ Steering Committee (EWSC)

NM / jr cope 342


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