It’s Day 5 of a strike by educational program assistants at schools in the Halifax region.
That means students with disabilities who rely on the support of these workers are not attending school and not receiving an education. Several of these students arrived at a picket line in Fall River Tuesday to show their support for the striking adult workers who usually support them.
CUPE Local 5047 represents roughly 1,800 school support workers including Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) who operate a pre-primary program for four-year-olds, library specialists, and support workers for Mi’kmaw and African Nova Scotian students.
Because the early childhood workers are on the picket line, working parents are having to make other arrangements for four-year-olds not attending pre-primary.
The province has offered school support workers a 6.5% raise over three years. The median wage for an educational program assistant in Nova Scotia is $18.00 an hour, according to a federal labour force survey in 2021.
The province did reach a tentative agreement with school support workers in the rest of the province. But in the urban area of the Halifax Regional Municipality — where rents are soaring and “a living wage” is $23.00 an hour — workers rejected that offer and are on strike to obtain a better one.
“Our members were clear that this offer does not address their needs,” said CUPE 5047 President Chris Melanson.
Most educational program assistants earn less than $35,000 a year. Negotiations between the CUPE local representing workers in Halifax and the government have yet to resume.
No bonus for cleaners
CUPE Local 2761 represents cleaners at the QEII Health Care Centre. They worked some long days during the pandemic.
Following the Houston government’s March 20 announcement of a “thank you” bonus aimed at retaining nurses as well as other health care workers, full-time cleaners at the Halifax Infirmary and Victoria General hospitals were told they don’t qualify for the “up to $5,000” bonus provided to housekeeping staff at other hospitals.
According to a news release from CUPE today, the reason is because:
Nova Scotia Health contracted out their positions to Crothall, a private company…the government is using that loophole to exclude these workers from the thank-you bonus, arguing they are not publicly funded.
Nova Scotia Health has contradicted its own argument, however, by granting the thank-you bonus to other health care workers employed by private facilities. Health care workers employed by private long term care facilities, for example, received the bonus.
In addition to cleaning staff at nursing homes, CUPE says housekeeping staff at the IWK Children’s and Women’s Health Centre also received the thank you bonus. That’s even though they worked for a private company until last February when they became employees of Nova Scotia Health.
“The Houston government shouldn’t be picking and choosing which public health care workers get the thank-you bonuses,” said CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen. “If they work at a publicly funded hospital, performing the same duties as other workers employed directly by Nova Scotia Health, they should be included. It’s shameful that the cleaners working in the QEII were excluded in the first place.”