CUPE protests 65 job cuts proposed in Peterborough Catholic school board budget

Click to play video: 'CUPE protests job cuts in proposed Peterborough Catholic school board budget' CUPE protests job cuts in proposed Peterborough Catholic school board budget
Local members of CUPE protested outside the Peterborough Catholic school board's office Monday night. Union representatives are calling on Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic District School Board trustees not to adopt its proposed budget, which would eliminate 65 full-time faculty positions. – Jun 14, 2022

A union representing frontline education workers says 65 jobs will be lost if trustees with the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic District School Board approve the board’s proposed 2022-2023 budget.

On Monday evening, members of CUPE Local 1453 along with parents and students rallied outside the school board’s office on Lansdowne Street, urging trustees not to support the budget. The board has acknowledged that 65 full-time equivalent (FTE) support worker positions are set to be eliminated if the budget is approved. Trustees will vote on the budget at its next board meeting on June 28.

CUPE Local 1453 represents 632 permanent and 300 casual supply workers throughout the school board including custodians, early childhood educators, educational assistants, secretaries, social workers, speech-language pathologists, and information technologists. The board, headquartered in Peterborough, has 36 schools throughout Peterborough, Peterborough County, the City of Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland County, and Durham Region.

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Nora Shaughnessy, president of the local, said the cuts will include 43 educational assistants among the 65 positions, which she said will directly impact students and their needs.

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“Coming out of the pandemic, we need to be looking at ways to increase services, not take services away from students, especially those who potentially don’t have a voice,” she told Global News Peterborough during Monday’s rally.

In a statement to Global News Peterborough, the school board said the positions were impacted by reductions or the ending of funding in two areas.

One was in 2019 amid labour negotiations when the board received $2.2 million through the Education Worker Protection Fund to support CUPE positions.

“This labour agreement, along with the approximately 40 FTE support worker positions it funds, expires at the end of August 2022,” the board said.

During the pandemic, provincial COVID-19 funding was used to support CUPE positions, the board said.

“That COVID funding has expired, which supported those extra CUPE positions,” the board noted.

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The school board said that to mitigate some of the losses tied to expired COVID-19 funding, it intends to spend $2,526,714 through the provincial Learning Recovery Fund in 2022-2023, of which approximately $1.6 million (65 per cent) will support close to 27 CUPE positions including 9.31 custodial supports and 18.6 educational assistants.

“The maintaining of these positions will support our students and school communities as we continue to recover from the pandemic,” the board said. “The board understands and values the important role our support staff play in supporting our students, especially through the pandemic challenges.”

However, Local 1453, which also received support from CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions, said younger staff entering the workforce will be impacted as they aren’t guaranteed employment this September.

“If they do, it will be on a rated basis so they won’t have guarantee hours come September,” Shaughnessy said. “So it does affect the livelihood of everybody, but our main focus is the services to students are not going to be adequate enough come September.”

Shaughnessy said trustees have a choice: either a budget that supports students and that keeps schools clean and safe, or one that “negatively affects students” and reduces more one-on-one supports.

“The kids have suffered enough with the two-and-a-half years of virtual learning which was a challenge in itself,” she said.

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