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FREDERICTON – Members of CUPE 2745, the Education Support Staff, will begin a
5-day hunger strike on Monday May 24th to bring attention to the lack of fairness and respect they receive from their Employer.

We have been in negotiations for over a year and it feels like we are on a merry-go-round,’ says Sandy Harding, President of CUPE 2745.

The main issue during this round of bargaining is the hours of work.  Our members work an average of 28 hours per week for 39 weeks a year.  Every summer, as well as Christmas and March breaks, we have to apply for Employment Insurance.  Our average salary on a yearly basis is $17,000, below the national poverty line’, explains Harding.

The government has introduced a new Pay Equity Legislation but it seems it does not apply to the 3,300 women who work as Education Support Staff.  Most of us, after many years of service, have little or no pension plan and almost no other benefits.  The government has recognized the wage gap, but is using the hurry-up-and-wait approach to fix the problem.  Implementing a wage freeze for this group flies in the face of equity.’

Why is it that bus drivers are guaranteed a minimum of 30 hours per week allowing them to pay into a defined benefit full-time pension plan while Teacher Assistants have a guarantee of 28 hours per week and must work 31 hours to qualify for the full-time defined benefit pension plan. Is this Fairness? Is this Respect?’

Today, we are issuing a Report Card for New Brunswick’s Education System.  In summary, the Education System needs improvement with regards to working constructively with its Educational Support Staff. It is frequently inattentive and demonstrates a lack of understanding and problem solving skills in addressing important issues facing support staff. Proper investment of time and funding will benefit all students and staff and ensure success for the New Brunswick Education System.’

On Monday, CUPE 2745 Bargaining Team  will embark on a 5-day hunger strike for fairness and respect.  During the week, we will be collecting non perishable food for the food banks around the province.  This is part of our CUPE 2745 Cares about Communities program.  Every day, we see children come into school hungry.  This is one of the many actions we will be taking this summer to bring our issues to the public,’ explains Harding.

This is not only about us. It is about the children.  There are children who cannot stay in school a full day because there are not enough hours of assistance.  There are children who need some help for a shorter period of time, like 4 to 6 weeks, and do not get it anymore. The funding formula based on total enrolment does not work.  This formula does not take into account the needs of the children.‘

We are not closing the door to negotiations, but our members are prepared to stand their grounds to get fairness and respect,’ concludes Harding.

CUPE 2745 represents 3300 members who work in the school and district offices around the province.