Charlottetown - On Pink Shirt Day, the CUPE PEI Division Executive and educational support staff in Island Locals 1145, 1770, 1775 and 3260 stand together to promote respectful schools and workplaces. Pink Shirt Day started in 2007 in Nova Scotia after two high school students encouraged their classmates to wear pink to support a boy who had been bullied for wearing pink to school.
“We are inspired by the courage of those students and their act of solidarity,” said Linda Jones, President of Local 3260, representing educational assistants, youth services workers and student attendants. “It shows how together we can send a powerful message to make everyone feel safe and welcome at school.”
“Raising awareness about the problem is very important. Everyone needs to be able to recognize bullying when they see it and feel supported in speaking up and taking action,” notes John Doucette, President of Local 1775, representing school maintenance services staff.
“Our students, their parents and education workers can find lots of useful information about bullying and healthy relationships on the national website PREVNet ( www.prevnet.ca/ ),” said Melvin Jay, President of Local 1145, representing school bus drivers. “Community groups like SAVE – that’s Students Against Violence Everywhere - also offer bullying prevention programs.”
“Education employees work cooperatively with teachers and school boards to support anti-bullying policies and initiatives,” affirms Dianne MacKenzie, President of Local 1770, representing administrative assistant support staff.
“Bullying is not just a youth problem,” adds Lori MacKay, CUPE PEI President. “It is far too common in workplaces worldwide, especially in tough economic times when downsizing and outsourcing, heavier workload and poor work-life balance put increased pressure on workers, managers and families. Our union offers workshops to members on how to recognize bullying, what to do when it happens and how to prevent it.”
Workplace bullying has also been internationally recognized as an occupational health and safety risk. Provinces like Ontario have added protection for workplace bullying and other forms of violence to their occupational health and safety legislation. “CUPE PEI and the PEI Federation of Labour Women’s Committee are calling on our government to follow suit,” concluded MacKay.
CUPE PEI represents about 3,000 public sector workers. CUPE Local 1145 represents approximately 400 transportation workers. CUPE Local 1770 represents about 240 administrative assistant support staff. CUPE Local 1775 represents approximately 320 maintenance workers. CUPE Local 3260 represents about 600 educational assistants, youth service workers and student attendants.