From the May-June 2023 issue of News & Letters
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada—School support workers in Halifax with Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 5047 have been out on strike for three weeks as of May 26. They are demanding more than the retrogressive 6.5% raise over three years they have been offered.
Despite Nova Scotia providing the lowest average pay of any province to school support workers, strikers in six districts outside Halifax felt compelled to accept the province’s offer, which did not even address high inflation.
KEEPING THOSE WITH HANDICAPS IN SCHOOL
The provincial government has broken off negotiations, but strikers in this city with the third highest housing costs in Canada continue to walk the picket line.
School support workers perform the tasks needed to keep students with handicaps attending public school, which means that disabled students are unable to attend school while the strike continues.
Evidence of support from parents of handicapped students and others can be seen in how the same purple signs, reading FAIR DEAL NOW FOR SCHOOL SUPPORT, that strikers carry on the picket line have popped up in front of houses across the city.
SCABS CAN’T KEEP KIDS SAFE
The province’s idea of a “remedy” is to advertise for replacements for the jobs of the strikers, even while they have had to acknowledge that untrained workers cannot safely take the strikers’ place. In response, workers have pressed the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour to demand anti-scab legislation.
In May, picket lines of 120,000 government workers nationwide came down, as the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) reached a tentative agreement with the Treasury Board.
PSAC had demanded a 4.5% a year raise over three years, including 2021 and 2022 when negotiations had produced no new contract. The tentative contract calls for an average of a little over 3% over four years.
The 35,000 workers at Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) went back to work under the same tentative contract on May 4. CRA officials gloated that, even though the deadline for tax returns was April 30, their computers could process returns and deposit returns into filers’ accounts while workers were on strike.
Opposition to the contract has focused on being shackled to a longer contract as inflation rages. Whether the agreement is ratified by the membership will be announced in the middle of June.