Education sector / Secteur de l’éducationAttendees at the education sector meeting on Sunday morning heard that public education across Canada is undervalued and underfunded and that far too often CUPE members pay the price. Whether it be in reduced hours of work or attacks on benefits and pensions, in virtually every province CUPE education workers face serious challenges at the bargaining table.

While the election of an NDP government in Alberta offered a bright spot—and demonstrated the importance of political action by CUPE members at the provincial level—it was made clear by regional representatives that education locals have their work cut out for them, regardless of province. Many speakers said that violence in the workplace is becoming more common and almost always stems from underfunding, but isn’t treated seriously by employers.

The meeting also heard from Benjamin Valbuena, national chairman of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in the Philippines. “Your union strength is our union strength,” said Valbuena. He thanked CUPE members for their solidarity with and support for ACT as it works to fend off many of the same challenges faced by education workers in Canada—public-private partnerships, underfunding and a lack of respect.

ACT faces some issues and concerns that CUPE members don’t. Valbuena also spoke of his union’s efforts to resist the militarization of schools and classrooms in the Philippines and said that ACT wouldn’t be able to function at the level it does without the support it receives from global allies like CUPE.