April 16, 2023

School support staff with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are poised for a legal strike action on April 21st, 2023 after going nearly three years without a collective bargaining agreement. These highly important workers are made up of Educational Program Assistants, cafeteria helpers, bus drivers, autism specialists, custodians, early childhood educators and more. All in all there are about 40 job classifications who aren’t being paid fairly. 

Imagine you’re the parent of a child with severe autism who relies on the service of their Educational Program Assistant. This person would be a familiar face to the child. They would have a working relationship. If there’s a strike, the EPA’s ability to help this child manage their day and get an education is now gone. The EPA would be replaced with what? Sub-par, non-unionized workers who would attempt to cross a picket line? Or maybe the slack would be picked up by other staff members on-site? Teachers will definitely feel the loss of our EPAs. Do you think this child would thrive? Hardly. 

These 5,400 support staff make educating our young people possible. That’s a given. But it’s not just the education that our support staff helps facilitate. A lot of the time these support staff help deliver the very basic necessities for children who would otherwise go without at home. 

Support staff are providing public transportation to and from school. This isn’t just the bus drivers either. We know EPAs who have been given directives to transport the children they care for to and from school as well. They’re able to expense kilometers driven. Those who accept that certainly want the little extra money of course. But we also hear that many are told explicitly by their employers (RCE, CSAP or school administrators) not to tell their own personal insurance companies they use their car for work use.  

Cafeteria and food service workers help provide food to kids. The Breakfast Club of Canada estimates one in three children in Nova Scotia go to school hungry. In fact, because of rising food costs many school meal programs in Nova Scotia exceeded their yearly budget by Christmas 2022. The RCEs and CSAP’s plans for online learning for later grades will have a devastating effect: the children who depend on school programs that put something in their bellies with dignity will simply go hungry at home.  

Support staff perform low-paying and largely thankless work. How low? Most support staff make less than $30,000 per year. That’s below the poverty line in Nova Scotia. How many of these support staff workers come to school every day without eating anything? Perhaps they can find something to eat between their second or third job. They would make more working at A&W or McDonald’s full time plus benefits. Given the last collective bargaining contract was in effect from 2014-2020 (and have had no new contract since then), the wage increase offer by the province does not keep up with inflation.  

These workers don’t do it for the money. These are acts of service. They make sure students get their meals and emotional and education supports, all when being faced with high violence and abuse rates in the workplace.  

What Can You Do? 

To show support for our school support staff, we would recommend the following: 

  1. Print the CUPE flyer below. Make copies. Hand them out. In fact, feel free to legally go on school property and pass them to other parents who are dropping off their kids.  
  1. Contact your MLA. If you’re not sure who that is, please use the Who’s My MLA tool.  
  1. Contact your school and then contact your RCE or CSAP executive director:
Executive DirectorTelephoneE-mail
AVRCEDave Jones902-538-4606 executivedirector@avrce.ca 
CBVRCESusan Kelley902-564-8293 susankelley@cbvrce.ca 
CCRCEGary Adams902-897-8910adamsgs@ccrce.ca 
CSAPMichel Collette902-769-5457michel.collette@csap.ca 
HRCESteve Gallagher902-464-2000 ext 2312gallaghers@hrce.ca 
SRCEPaul Landry902-625-7065paul.landry@srce.ca 
SSRCENancy Pynch-Worthylake902-541-3002npynch-worthylake@ssrce.ca 
TCRCEJared Purdy902-749-5818jared.purdy@tcrce.ca 

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