Tony K

Janet Szliske | CUPE Communications

A new campaign to promote unity among CUPE members will make a big difference for CUPE 728 as it begins preparations for bargaining in the largest and fastest-growing school district in B.C., says CUPE 728 President Tammy Murphy. Her local, which counts over 5,000 K-12 members, represents support workers in School District 36.

The CUPE 728 executive recognized that there were concerns they needed to address and recently took up the challenge to lay a foundation for an inclusive, united group where members feel valued and respected.

“We want everyone to feel an equal part going forward into bargaining for our next collective agreement,” said Murphy, saying that the union wants to build member understanding of the role each classification plays so that they better understand each other’s issues.

The local represents members in more than one hundred classifications for Caretakers, Clerical, Information Technology, Maintenance, School and Community Support, and Student Support.

They developed postcards that will go out to all members through Canada Post every month. Each postcard features two diverse member classifications side by side. Newspaper ads each month feature the same members sharing thoughts on their dedication and commitment to students and Surrey schools. The local also purchased masks for each member carrying the logo and slogan, “Surrey Schools Stronger Together”.

A secondary goal of the campaign is to build public support. Since the early stage of the pandemic, a time of fear and uncertainty about the virus and how it spread, CUPE 728 members from every department “have stepped forward to make sure that the kids, families and schools were taken care of,” said Murphy. To shine a light on members’ dedication, the campaign includes newspaper ads that will feature different members throughout the year.

Murphy praised her members for their amazing commitment during the pandemic. When schools were initially closed, caretakers, trades, and non-trades went to work to prepare the school for reopening. Education Assistants, StrongStart and all support staff arranged activities for the children of first responders who were receiving daycare in schools. With several inner-city schools in the district, many other departments including outreach workers, safe school liaison workers and meal program workers prepared lunches for families in need.

“When people were able to stay home and still be paid, these members chose to come into work, despite the personal risks,” said Murphy. “This was a scary time, and our members were great. I’m proud of CUPE 728 members and what they do for students and schools, and to support each other.”

Murphy, saying it’s important that members be recognized and acknowledged, added that they also need to understand that it takes all of them to have a strong local.