Union calling on province to pay all school workers, as classes suspended indefinitely

WINNIPEG — The union representing the majority of Manitoba’s kindergarten to Grade 12 educational staff is calling on the government to keep paying all workers, after the province announced on Tuesday that schools will be suspended indefinitely.

Abe Araya, president of CUPE, said educational assistants will still have to support students and custodians will still need to take care of the schools.

“We need all hands on deck to support our students while they learn from home, and School Divisions need to do everything possible to keep EAs and support staff working for our young people,” he said in a news release on Tuesday.

The union noted Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said it’s up to school divisions to decide whether or not to lay off employees.

Araya said school divisions have already budgeted for their staff for this year and that needs to be seen through.

“School Divisions need to be creative in helping EAs support students through digital tools, and students with special needs, language barriers, and who face socioeconomic challenges will need even more support than ever,” he said.

CUPE suggested custodians and trades and clerical staff can work to maintain schools, librarians can be used as resources for teachers and families, and bus drivers can deliver educational materials, particularly to families without Internet access.

Araya said cuts to staffing will hurt schools and children’s education.

“Students, parents, and teachers need to know that they have access to the supports they need to help students succeed,” he said.

When Premier Brian Pallister was asked Tuesday whether educational assistants and support staff will be paid, he said if people are working they’ll be paid, and if they’re not, there are programs in place to help people with cash flow.

“We’ll be continuing to partner with the federal government and municipal governments in making sure that programming doesn’t let people fall through the cracks,” the premier said.

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