For immediate release – June 9, 2022
EDMONTON – After mediation hit a wall after just one day this week, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees is pointing its finger at the Government of Alberta, although it says the school board isn’t helping matters.
“The provincial government is determined to devalue education workers and Living Waters Catholic Schools is going along with it by insisting on two-tier wages for hard-working Educational Assistants,” says Sandra Azocar, Vice President of AUPE. “They think that they should pay EAs less if they don’t have a certificate, no matter how many years of experience they have.”
“We don’t believe workers doing the exact same work for the same employer should be paid less,” she says. “The Government of Alberta is playing puppet master and their approach is risking a labour dispute that could hurt these communities.”
The school board, which operates schools in Whitecourt, Edson and Slave Lake, says they are carrying out a mandate given to them by the provincial government, but AUPE says school support workers should not be targeted with even lower wages, especially during a period of quickly rising prices.
“These workers work hard to support kids, despite being tossed aside by this government at the start of the pandemic. Now the same government is trying to lower their wages at a time when record oil and gas revenues are pouring in. It’s outrageous.”
Azocar is calling on Living Waters to come back to the table with a more reasonable position, including abandoning the demand for two-tier wages.
"The employer’s approach to bargaining led to an 18-day strike in 2018,” recalls Azocar. “One would hope that they learned from this and would do everything they could to avoid any disruption to students’ education, particularly after all these kids and workers have gone through these last couple of years.”
“Our members have worked hard to keep students and staff safe throughout this pandemic and they give it their all every single day to contribute to providing high quality education to Alberta’s children and youth,” said Azocar. “They don’t deserve this kind of disrespect from either their employer or the provincial government.”
AUPE is Western Canada’s largest union with over 95,000 members, with approximately 10,500 of those working in the education sector.
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