The union representing 1,800 school support workers has voted to accept a new contract, ending a strike by the workers that started on May 10.
The news was announced late Saturday evening. The union, CUPE local 5047, sent out this message:
“While we are happy that we’ve made some progress, there’s a lot of work still to be done,” said Chris Melanson, President of CUPE Local 5047. “School support workers in Halifax are activated, organized, and will be continuing to fight to make these jobs livable. This is just the beginning.”
The workers on strike included educational program assistants, African Nova Scotian student support workers, assistive technology support workers, child and youth care practitioners, early childhood educators, library support specialists, Mi’kmaw/Indigenous student support workers, and SchoolsPlus community outreach workers.
Details of the contract have not yet been released, however, Melanson told CBC the agreement doesn’t include an increase of wages, but it does include retroactive pay, better health and safety language, and bringing casual workers into the bargaining unit. He said the new contract expires on March 31, 2024.
The Halifax Regional Centre for Education shared this message from regional executive director Steve Gallagher on its website:
I am pleased to share that members of CUPE 5047 have voted to accept the tentative agreement and the strike has ended, effective immediately.
What does this mean for families?
All Pre-Primary children and students who have not been able to safely attend without EPAs at work, can return to school on Monday, June 19.
“We recognize that it may not be school as usual. Our focus in the coming days will be on reconnecting with students and staff who have been absent.
In May, the Halifax members of CUPE 5047 voted to reject an offer that was accepted by seven other regional centres for education across Nova Scotia earlier in the spring. The Halifax workers said that offer, which included a wage increase of 6.5% over three years, wasn’t enough to cover the rising costs of living in the Halifax area.
Teagan Archer-Parrell is a parent of a son with nonverbal autism and ADHD who was out of school during the strike, although he was back to class three hours a day the past week and a half. Archer-Parrell is part of a parent group called HRM Supports Education Workers and had this to say about the vote:
“We are all excited to have a little bit of normalcy for the last few weeks of school… but we’re also kind of disappointed that the workers had to take a deal that doesn’t reflect their value,” Ashley said. It’s been hard as a parent to be excited, but also, because we’ve been so supportive of the workers, to also feel this kind of sense of sadness and dread as well.”
Hundreds of students who rely on school support workers couldn’t attend school while the strike was underway. Early in June, Inclusion Nova Scotia said the exclusion of students with disabilities from school was a human rights violation and discriminatrion.