By Jessica Laws, For The Intelligencer
Thursday, October 15, 2015 2:12:16 EDT PM
BELLEVILLE – As of next week the historically long election race for Prime Minister of Canada will come to an end. And while it is our civic duty to take note of the candidates and immerse ourselves in the issues, I’m sure I’m not completely alone when I say – I am so happy it is all over.
On October 19, history will be made and Canada will either vote for change or another four years of Harper’s Conservative agenda. While the media industry has flourished in every platform where the election is concerned it has dropped the ball on a huge issue that might make waves in the coming weeks.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has slowly been ramping up their legal strike positions. That means 55,000 support staff workers in our four different school boards can soon be out on a picket line instead of in our schools. Before school started this year, CUPE support staff workers noted their displeasure with the lack of negotiations and, to add salt to the their wounds, mainstream media still isn’t really giving them a voice. It seems we only care what happens in our schools if it means teachers are the ones going on strike. While work-to-rule has been in the second stage since late September a legal strike is the next viable option to get their voices heard.
But these 55,000 workers are the backbone of our school boards. CUPE isn’t in the business of endangering our kids; health and safety is their top priorities, so don’t let that be what you take away from this. However, without them working at their full capacity you have to wonder what environment school kids are in. What do these education workers have to do to garner any form of recognition? Because they clearly aren’t the ones being discussed over dinner and somewhere down the line they feel they haven’t been taken seriously. And without them, without the educational assistants, office administrators, custodians, tradespeople, instructors, library technicians, early childhood educators, IT specialists, speech pathologists and others, kids aren’t able to reach their full potential.
Isn’t it time we ask for answers from Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals? While it is understandably uncomfortable to know the state of our schools are reaching stages worse than a nightclub on a Saturday evening, this is what it has had to come to for CUPE support staff workers to get recognition. Also getting snubbed by Education Minister Sandals are the 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province that are represented by the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO). With talks not that long ago alluding to hundreds of millions of dollars in planned cuts in our education system, today’s messy schools and jammed printers look like a walk in the park.
We all have jobs that have expectations and guidelines. We cannot fault union members for falling in line with their union’s demands and following their work-to-rule guidelines. So while I have enjoyed the hype surrounding the election, the debates and the candidate’s commercials on who has better hair, I am so relieved that Monday will mean an end to the guessing game and that we can hopefully get down to business.
These support staff workers are overdue for some limelight of their own. But I am just one voice in a sea of so many others. If CUPE strikes it isn’t because they don’t care, it’s because they do. They want the very best learning environments for children and they want to be in the classrooms with children who need their attention. We need to reach out to the education minister and show support for CUPE and EFTO, children’s educations matter and so do the people that help in providing them.