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Members of CUPE 2745, the Education Support Staff in New Brunswick, began a five-day hunger strike on Monday, May 24 to bring attention to the lack of fairness and respect they receive from their employer.

CUPE 2745 represents nearly 3,300 members who are educational and clerical support staff in New Brunswick schools and School District offices for the Department of Education. Our membership includes Teacher Assistants, School Secretaries/Clerical, Library Assistants, District Office clerical support staff, School Intervention Workers and Student/Bus Attendants.

We have been in negotiations for over a year and it feels like we are on a merry-go-round,” said 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 per year. Every summer, as well as Christmas and March breaks, we have to apply for Employment Insurance. Our average annual salary is $17,000, below the national poverty line.”

The government has introduced new Pay Equity Legislation, but it seems it does not apply to the 3,300 people 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.”

CUPE 2745 has issued a Report Card for New Brunswick’s Education System. In summary, it states that the education system needs improvement, working more constructively with its educational support staff. The system is frequently inattentive and demonstrates a lack of understanding and problem-solving ability to address 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.

Harding also expressed concern for students in province,”There are children who cannot stay in school for a full day because there are not enough hours of assistance. The funding formula based on total enrollment does not work. This formula does not take into account the needs of the children.”

CUPE 2745 is also collecting non-perishable food items for food banks around the province during the week-long protest. This is part of the CUPE 2745 Cares about Communities program.