SASKATOON - Two out of every three school support workers in Saskatchewan are now represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, following a major organizing drive by the union in the K-12 education sector.
CUPE’s organizing effort over the last eight months has attracted 583 more school support workers to the union – all from rural school divisions.
“It’s not a common perception, but we found people working in rural Saskatchewan very receptive to unionization,” says CUPE spokesperson Kim Aschenbrenner. “Women working as teacher assistants, secretaries, and other school support jobs are particularly interested in joining a union, as school amalgamation unfolds,” she says.
The union’s four most recent certifications – all within the last month –include education workers from 30 rural schools in the former Aspen Grove, Herbert, Moosomin and Golden Plains school divisions.
During the eight-month drive, CUPE also signed-up support staff working in schools in Davidson, Viscount, Shell Lake, Shellbrook and Hudson Bay. More than 60 per cent of rural school workers now belong to a union.
Aschenbrenner says there is no question school workers signed union cards because they are concerned about job security in the wake of school amalgamations. But, she says, many education workers also expressed a strong desire to achieve a more equitable system of pay and benefits. Unlike teachers who negotiate provincially, school support workers bargain locally and this has created enormous inequities across school divisions, she says.
CUPE currently represents 5,900 of the 8,770 support staff in K-12 education in the province. With two more certification applications before the labour relations board and more organizing campaigns planned in rural school divisions, that number will grow in 2006.
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