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Ontario’s self-styled ‘education premier’ and education minister should pay close attention to this week’s annual meeting of school support staff. Prone to forgetting that school support staff are important to quality education, the debate on education issues from the perspective of school support workers will be very instructional for the McGuinty Liberals,” says Sid Ryan, the Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The leadership of CUPE’s school board sector will be debating political mobilizing and bargaining strategies at the annual CUPE Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee (OSBCC) conference in Niagara Falls beginning Tuesday, April 17. The Liberal minister of education, Kathleen Wynne, is scheduled to address conference delegates on Friday, April 20, 2007 at 4:30 p.m.

Ryan is responding to recent comments by Premier Dalton McGuinty lauding his government’s record on education and, in particular, maintaining labour peace in the sector.

McGuinty is patting himself on the back for avoiding teachers’ strikes. What he conveniently ignores is that a flawed education funding formula, that doesn’t provide enough dollars to maintain adequate custodial, secretarial and educational assistant (EA) staffing levels, is fueling all the strikes in the sector. The result of inadequate funding is not just layoffs, but more and more work, such as supervision being downloaded onto the backs of CUPE members.

Twenty-one hundred members of CUPE 218, who work for the Durham public board, just ended a two-week strike, and yesterday, 700 members of CUPE 1483 (Dufferin-Peel catholic board) voted 95% to take strike action. In May 2006, more than 1,100 EAs with the Thames Valley school board were on strike three weeks to gain additional classroom time with special needs students.

When it comes to adequate funding for school operations, special education, cleaning and administration, and recognizing the contribution support staff make in our schools, the McGuinty Liberals seem to have much in common with the predecessor Tories; it is not a priority for them,” says Ryan.

CUPE OSBCC conference information:

April 17 – April 21, 2007
Sheraton Fallsview (Ballroom)
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Guest speakers include:

       Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Education     Friday, April 20, 2007            4:30 p.m.
       Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario President           Thursday, April 19, 2007        1:30 p.m.

CUPE represents nearly 50,000 school board support staff across the province.