We want to start with a huge thank you to all members of the sector for all the work you do and continue to do through these unprecedented times. Unfortunately, far too often we hear in the media some other union being thanked and us as CUPE not getting the recognition you all deserve so much. So, we want to say thank you to the education workers of the province for not only the front line work you have continued to perform but also to our members who have adapted their work to meet the new needs of education and those who have stepped up and even volunteered outside our sector to work with those affected the hardest in this pandemic. To you all, we say a huge thank you!!! Please know that your work is respected and appreciated, if not always recognized publicly as it should be.
On behalf of CUPE, we also want to thank your executive and staff reps as they have continued to fight for your rights behind the scenes to make sure your health and safety, working conditions, pay and benefits have all gone forward without interruption. This has been a great achievement for us as a sector, and you and your locals should be proud of all the work you have done.
In regard to health and safety, we need to say a special thank you to Sister Jenna Brookfield who, despite being busy beyond words, has continued to provide information and answer any and all questions as they came forward. I encourage everyone to look at the question and answer document that was prepared for our sector as we move forward, to have a full understanding of our rights and what is the best practice for keeping us safe. All of your locals have this document, and if it is not posted in your workplaces, please contact your local executives to get a copy.
As we move forward, we appreciate that we are still facing great uncertainty about the next school year. There are many questions and few answers to this point but know that CUPE is still working towards those answers, and you will have them as soon as we do. Here are a few of the concerns we are hearing:
My employer is not putting a return to work date on my seasonal layoff ROE. Is this something CUPE can control and what is the outcome?
No, we are not in charge of that process and nothing in our collective agreement speaks to ROEs. This is an employer and Department of Education decision and was shared with the Union as a courtesy not as a bargaining or discussion item. That said, CUPE has and will continue to take the position that extending or changing the lay off period in any way has collective agreement ramifications. As such, we will impose those changes. CUPE has also been asked to sit on a committee as a stakeholder in education to look at what the next school year may look like. As we do so, we will continue to raise these issues to make sure our members’ best interests in all aspects of work are looked after and can only hope that those messages are heard and respected by the employers and the powers that be.
Does wording in my collective agreement protect me against and extended seasonal lay off?
As stated above, the Union will continue to argue that provisions of our collective agreement would be affected by the change in the lay off period and will oppose any changes to that period. It is important to remember at this time while there is no report back to work date on our ROEs, at no time to this point, has anyone said that there is a potential change to that either. As we move forward towards the upcoming school year, CUPE will keep all members updated on where we may find ourselves and of the actions taken by your Union if needed.
Are all school board employees facing this same uncertainty?
CUPE has no influence or knowledge of how the summer period is covered under the NSTU or other unions’ collective agreements. As such, all we can do is protect our members as best we can, going forward.
What about my benefit and pension coverage?
If your benefits are covered by the NSSBA (now the NSECSB), that structure has provisions that are built in for the shutdown provisions of the school year and this period will be the same. In the past, we have also built in provisions should there be an unexpected period of interruption in the school year and how those benefits will be covered. Should you not be in the NSECEB plan you should contact your employer. Your plan should be fine as well, as all the School Board plans are based off those breaks in active employment and have their own built in mechanisms of dealing with the breaks. Should you have any concerns then please contact your local executive or staff rep assigned, and we will look into those issues as needed to make sure you are protected.
Applying for EI?
We are being told this is not the first time a board or education centre has not put a potential return to work date on the ROEs given to employees, and at that time, there were no negative effects. As CUPE, we would point out that this should be considered a normal lay off practice as has happened every year of your employment to this date. CUPE is suggesting you treat it as such and be very aware of the rules and obligations should you apply for or receive any benefits that would fall outside your normal.
CUPE will commit to working on behalf of all our members as we look towards the next school year and what that may bring. For many of you, this means the start to a well- deserved break in your work schedules. Please take the time to enjoy that, knowing we as a union are still here. For those who continue to work through the summer, do so, confident that CUPE continues to be here to face any and all challenges the summer will bring.
Please have a safe and healthy summer, enjoy the weather and the time that is yours. As a union and with your support, we will continue to be successful as a sector now and moving forwards.
CUPE NS Education Coordinator