By: Eva Morris
Many students are familiar with the concept of online learning by now, as it’s been nearly two years since the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down. School staff and frontline workers have worked tirelessly to adapt to the chaos and to continue to safely educate and care for their students, often putting themselves at risk.
Despite being willing to put themselves on the front lines for the sake of educating and supporting our province’s children, workers have seen no wage increases, and little-to-no support or respect from Premier Blaine Higgs, who just saw the provincial government’s fourth consecutive budget surplus in the middle of a pandemic.
Tired from 12 years of stagnant, unfair wages, and with many workers who have been waiting to see a new collective agreement from the government for four years now, the Canadian Union of Public Employees delivered a “100 Day Final Notice to Bargain” to the government of New Brunswick in late May of 2021.
Since then, several attempts to negotiate with the New Brunswick government have broken down, resulting in nothing but empty proposals and the dismissal of our essential workers’ needs. CUPE NB worked hard to avoid striking, exhausting every possible option.
Finally, this fall, with it becoming more and more clear that Premier Blaine Higgs does not care to see that New Brunswick’s essential workers are paid a living wage, CUPE NB voted to strike.
This is why students in the Anglophone West School District have had to return to online learning.
With CUPE on strike, ASD-W did not have access to most educational assistants, student attendants, school administrative assistants, library workers, district administrative assistants, bus drivers, custodians, and maintenance repair workers.
This meant many ASD-W schools are unable to safely host students to attend in-person classes. But that’s not all. Many students also suffered from the loss of consistency and care typically provided to them by these workers at a time when there is already so much stress and grief.
With the announcement late last night that the strike has ended, a plan for schools to return to in-person classes will be announced in the coming days.