About 300 Red Deer Catholic Regional School employees including educational assistants, library workers, and clerical staff are now unionized after three years of negotiations.
The staff represented by the Canadian Union of Provincial Employees (CUPE) recently signed their first contract. The deal includes modest wage increases, job protections, seniority provisions and a means to settle disputes between employees and the district.
CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill said K-12 staff are poorly compensated in Alberta.
“The average educational assistant in Alberta makes just over $27,000 a year,” said Gill. “That’s not enough to live on, and it’s not enough for the people who help some of our most vulnerable kids.”
CUPE took aim at the provincial government for dragging out negotiations because they did not want to compensate workers fairly.
“The district has to get any settlement approved by the UCP government in Edmonton. And the UCP remain opposed to paying K-12 staff a living wage,” said the union in a statement.
Gill stated that educational assistants generally have at least one year of training and are required to balance teaching plans, individual student needs, and administrative responsibilities while keeping students safe.
“I’m glad we were able to move the needle a small amount, but Alberta needs to seriously re-adjust the compensation rates for K-12 employees.”
Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews’ office responded to a request for government comment.
“I am pleased that the two parties have reached an agreement that recognizes the hard work of the employees, as well as accomplishes the goal of bringing spending in line with other provinces,” says the statement.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools superintendent Kathleen Finnigan said, “We are thankful to both committees for their dedication and hard work on this agreement.
“We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with educational assistants, secretaries, and librarians who are now full members of CUPE Local 417,” Finnigan said in an email.