A message from Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan, printed in the Labour Day feature of the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix (print issue: Friday, September 4, 2020).
This week I am reflecting on what Labour Day meant historically, what it will look like during the COVID-19 pandemic and what it may look like in the future.
Labour Day, a statutory holiday in Canada since 1894, was created to honour the labour movement and the social and economic achievement of workers. Every year we celebrate the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.
CUPE Saskatchewan President, Judy Henley, Secretary-Treasurer, Kent Peterson, and John McDonald, Senator on CUPE Saskatchewan’s Indigenous Council visited Tristen Durocher at the Walking with our Angels camp to drop off a donation and to hear from him directly.
Saskatchewan is facing a suicide crisis. Over the last 15 years, over 2,300 people in Saskatchewan have lost their lives to suicide – the highest suicide rate in Canada. The issue is especially critical in Northern Saskatchewan where young people are 10-30% percent higher than those in southern communities.
On July 2nd two young men, Tristen Durocher and Chris Merasty, have drawn national attention to this important issue. The pair walked 630 km from La Ronge to Regina to raise awareness of the crisis and call for immediate action. With no response from the government, Tristen Durocher and his allies set up a teepee across from the Legislature and began a hunger strike.
In a recent Regina Leader-Post article published online on August 19 and in the paper August 20, titled: “Prairie South SD says safety not impacted by cuts”, the chair of Prairie South Schools Board of Trustees, Robert Bachmann, has finally responded to the growing concern shared by parents and staff about the decision to cut over 20 hours of cleaning per day in Moose Jaw area schools. Bachmann is claiming that somehow cutting cleaning hours during a pandemic isn’t a safety risk. It’s a claim that just can’t be backed-up, and the excuses as to why it is occurring just don’t add up, says CUPE.
“There is no excuse to justify cutting school cleaning during a pandemic, and cleaning hours in Prairie South School Division should be restored and enhanced before the doors open for back-to-school in September,” says Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan, in response to the article and the comments by the Division’s Board chair.
Custodial service cuts impact daily cleaning hours in AE Peacock Collegiate, Riverview Collegiate, Central Collegiate, Prince Arthur School, Westmount School, William Grayson School, and the 9th Avenue Board Office and Maintenance Building in Moose Jaw.
Statement from the CUPE Saskatchewan Education Workers.
Premier Scott Moe recently announced updates to the provincial governments “Safe Schools Plan” still falls short of the measures parents and staff are calling for.
Last week, Minister Gordan Wyant said that school divisions were able to access the province’s $200 million contingency fund, but that “no school division has asked for any additional funding at this point in time.” Yesterday Moe announced that a paltry $40 million of this funding would be available to school divisions – but only on an application basis.
An additional $40 million shared by over 800 schools does not go very far in ensuring safe environments for our students and staff.
The Government of Saskatchewan’s latest tweaks to the Safe School Plan ignores expert advice and the concerns of many staff, parents, and students, says CUPE Saskatchewan’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee.
In the last week, the Public Health Officer of Canada came out with recommendations that students over the age of 10 wear masks, that students and teachers stay two metres apart wherever possible, and that students and teachers be grouped together to reduce the number of people they come into close contact with. This advice is echoed by physician organizations in Saskatchewan and across the country.
“The Ministry of Education is ignoring expert advice and passing the buck to school divisions,” said Jackie Christianson, chair of CUPE’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “Why is the government refusing to do their job – be strong leaders when it comes to keeping our students and staff safe?”
The province’s largest union representing education support workers says the government’s approval of back-to-school plans in September announced today with eight common main components does not provide the conditions necessary for a safe return in these far from normal times.
“The plans to return back-to-school by the provincial government lack the overall prerequisite safeguards and resources needed to protect against virus transmission before full in-classroom learning begins,” said Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “The rushed implementation and lack of key details leaves significant doubt that education staff and students will be properly protected.”
CUPE Saskatchewan and its Education Workers Steering Committee have written a letter to the Minister of Education expressing concern over the final stages of planning to re-open schools this upcoming school year in September, highlighting the conditions that prevent a safe return with full in-classroom learning. The letter was issued today as The Regina Leader-Post reports that Saskatchewan is experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases in Canada.
With the province set to announce finalized K-12 education plans after the August long weekend, the province’s largest union representing over 7,000 education support workers says that a return to in-classroom learning for the upcoming school year in September is too rushed to ensure the safety of staff and students – especially since education support workers have been left out of the Education Response Planning Team reviewing those final plans.
“The final review of the re-open plans from school divisions set to be announced next week leaves out the very support workers that are key to the effective and practical operations of those plans – from cleaning, to supervision, to the transportation home in the school bus. You can have plans on paper, but the fact is the government has left out front-line support workers and there is inadequate time to receive orientation, prepare and test these so-called final plans,” said Jackie Christianson, chair of the CUPE Saskatchewan Education Workers Steering Committee and an educational assistant.
The Saskatchewan Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Saskatchewan) is currently accepting applications from members of affiliated Local Unions to serve on the Task Force for Member Engagement. Applications for consideration of appointment must be received by no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21, 2020.
CUPE members in good standing of affiliated Local Unions are eligible to apply.
A new report from the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives (CCPA) looks at the long-term issues of public-private-partnership (P3s) infrastructure builds.
A new report A Partnership in Name Only: How the public sector subsidizes the P3 model, written by Simon Enoch, CCPA Saskatchewan Director, examines the multiple issues public sector workers face in Saskatchewan’s P3 buildings.
The findings of the report, which was commissioned by CUPE Saskatchewan, is based on interviews with CUPE members working at P3s in municipalities, schools, and health care.