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Across the street, Niagara Falls roared and inside the crowd thundered when CUPE National President Paul Moist met with 300 delegates to the Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee (OSBCC) in Niagra Falls this week. He congratulated them on a job well done, particularly when faced with challenges like Ontario’s education funding formula.

CUPE 218 (Durham), and CUPE 4222 (Thames Valley) came in for special attention as a result of recent strikes. “To all members and those who supported you, you stood up for yourselves and for all school board workers in Ontario and across the country, you make us all proud,” said Moist. “The Thames Valley EAs started the ball rolling last spring and we congratulate you!”

We have issues with school boards across this country,” Moist continued. “Over the next 10 years enrollment may decline by 9.4 per cent across the country, according to a concise sector profile prepared by CUPE National Researcher Paul O’Donnell. In Ontario it may be five per cent. Fewer students’ means less money to the boards.”

As a result of the many issues facing school boards across the country, Moist announced a new national initiative: Our first ever National School Board Sector Conference, a gathering of CUPE school board workers from all regions of Canada, in 2008.

There are 100,000 members in this sector across the country and 40,000 members in Ontario. You are one of our largest sectors and we will support you. We are currently facing many hot issues here in Ontario and outside Ontario as well,” Moist said.

The recent federal budget did not address school board workers. We are asking that, as with municipalities, the federal government provide a full GST rebate on all expenditures made by school boards.” He went on to call for all members to write their MPs demanding a GST rebate for school boards.

In Ontario, and four other provinces (B.C., NB, PEI and NFLD) school boards have lost the right to levy taxes leaving them at the mercy of their provincial governments.”

Outlining the situation elsewhere in Canada, Moist said Saskatchewan is very close to establishing province-wide bargaining. Newfoundland and Labrador currently have province-wide bargaining, but that contract is coming to and end.

In Vancouver, B.C., a budget shortfall of $5.2 M is predicted for 2007/08. In Manitoba, there is a push to establish a defined pension plan for all school board workers across the province. The recent Ontario budget failed to address restructuring the funding formula.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board is now under supervision and CUPE 1483 has a strong strike mandate. “Thanks to the Dufferin-Peel trustees for standing up and standing by their principles,” Moist said.

I pledge our national union to work with you,” said Moist. “We’ll support your campaigns and walk picket lines with you and it won’t stop there.  CUPE will support local 1483 and any other local in this country. Bring your campaigns to us through your servicing and communications reps and we will be there to help you.”

In conclusion Moist said, “no employer is going to starve out any CUPE local anywhere in Canada, your national union will be with you all the way.”