As union members, the one muscle we can flex that bosses and politicians can’t is our collective power, and we know there’s no greater – or more challenging – show of solidarity than strike action.
As the UCP block more and more paths to worker-resistance, a walkout might be the road AUPE members choose to go down, and no matter the season or reason for hitting the pavement, preparedness is key. That means getting ourselves ready – not only mentally, emotionally and physically, but also financially.
As a collective, AUPE is financially prepared for the possibility that members choose to take strike action, but what about you as an individual? If you’re not supported you can’t support your fellow members, so here’s a list of some of the things you should do to protect yourself against any financial surprises or stresses should you choose to strike.
- Understand your strike pay.
Some strikes last longer than others, but the more workers who participate, the more successful - and likely, shorter - it will be. If a strike lasts longer than five days, AUPE members will receive $400/week for the duration of the job action.
This financial support comes straight from the union strike fund; it’s not only deduction-free, but also no taxes or CPP will come off of the pay.
Start making a list of all your most basic, day-to-day expenses, such as rent, groceries, insurance, transportation and prescription drugs. Build a budget. Keep in mind, members with dependents receive an additional $40/week in strike pay per dependent.
If you need some professional help with budgeting or debt management, call the 24-hour AUPE Crisis Support Service number at 1-844-744-7026, which is provided through a third party.
- Talk to your bank and creditors.
So you’ve budgeted for your everyday expenses, but what about those bigger investments that cost you? Maybe you have a mortgage, or maybe you took out a line of credit to pay for your vehicle, whatever it is, these will need your attention before you hit the pavement.
Most banks and creditors have policies to allow deferred payment if a strike happens. Call them and talk about any concerns you have about your ability to make payments, take out loans and more. When workers go on strike, you put a lot on the line, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing your long-term financial stability.
- Your benefits are there for you.
Health benefits are an important part of a union contract, and many workers have had to go on strike to get benefits, keep them, and improve them.
If you have benefits that you’ve negotiated into your collective agreement, the union will continue to pay the employer to cover the cost the entire time you’re on strike.
- Know you have supports.
The decision to strike is never easy, but you and your co-workers aren’t alone in your fight. If you’re experiencing stress, burnout or other struggles, there are people you can talk to.
211: The free Alberta Community and Social Service Help Line. Open 24/7 (and available in over 150 languages), it will connect you to a whole network of supports such as shelter/housing resources, food relief, LGBTQ2S+ resources and more.
The AUPE Crisis Support line (1-844-744-7026): Access Your Employee and Family Assistance Program. This will open the door to a number of counselling and financial services.
You might have more support than you think. Strikes are collective actions. The more of us participating the better off we'll be. Many people understand this and are willing to provide support by way of meals or even financial assistance. Sometimes we just have to ask.
There are a lot of heart-warming stories out there of co-workers passing the hat so that another co-worker doesn’t have to fear what a strike will do to their fragile financial situation, chipping in with child care, donating collections of winter clothes and more.
A last resort: If you find yourself on the picket line, having taken all these steps, and exhausted all other financial support systems, visit the AUPE Member Benefits benevolent fund page.
If you are in a financial emergency, you may qualify for financial assistance. Read the criteria first before filling out an application and know that your issue will be examined on an individual basis.