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CUPE workers have been on strike for four weeks as of today

By Joe Thomson Jun 7, 2023 | 3:05 PM

L to R: Joanne Dileo, Chris Melanson, CUPE president Nan McFadgen, and Claudia Chender. (Photo: Joe Thomson)

Exactly four weeks ago school support staff across Halifax went on strike over wage increases.

Today, the Nova Scotia NDP help a press meeting with striking members from CUPE calling on the Houston government to return to the table. Thousands of workers have been on the picket lines while Premier Houston stands firm in his assertion that offering increased wages to this group of workers would undo wage parity between support staff across the province.

“It’s been four weeks since this government, the Houston government, has refused to come to the table and offer a fair deal that allows all of these folks to support their families, so that they can support ours,” said Nova Scotia NDP leader Claudia Chender.

With support staff out of schools, hundreds of children in the HRM who rely on their work have not been allowed to attend class either. Chender says by not returning to the bargaining table, the provincial government is hurting our most vulnerable students.

CUPE Local 5047 president, Chris Melanson, went so far as to calling their refusal to negotiate oppression. School support staff represent the highest percentage of women and racialized communities in a single profession in the entire province.

“This is oppression. There are people here that struggle to pay bills, that make choices of whether they’re going to put food on the table or pay for their rent… and that’s not okay. The premier knows this,” said Melanson.

With the end of the school year looming, some striking workers are worried that they may lose some of their leverage if the strike continue while students are off on summer break.

Joanne Dileo is one of those striking workers. She spoke to media today about her experience on the picket lines over the past month. She has been an early childhood education support worker since 1984.

“After working this many years in childcare… my gross earnings are not even $29,000 a year. And that’s my gross earnings. So, my take home is much less than that,” said Dileo.

She said it has been heartbreaking to hear from parents about how some children have regressed while support staff has been on strike. She mentioned one boy who was very shy and timid when he came to her class in September. Dileo says he has been gaining confidence and was starting to come out of his shell and make friends when she went on strike last month.

“Now he’s starting to go back to being that shy, timid little guy that he was before. Because he doesn’t have the emotional and social support of the classroom, his teachers, and his peers,” said Dileo.

She knows summer break is approaching and would love to be back in school before the year is over, but says she will be on the picket lines all summer long if that’s what it takes.

Meanwhile, Chender says that letting the strike drag on into the summer would be a huge mistake on the provincial government’s part.

“Many of them, who I have spoken to, have received job offers. So, if this government waits, these workers will move on, and it will break their hearts. And it will cause a huge, and extraordinarily expensive and difficult to solve challenge for this government, because come fall, they will not have the workers they need,” said Chender.

The strike began on May 10th.


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