Brian Pallister’s Plan for education an attack on CUPE Members

This letter was drafted by CUPE staff in response to the MTS piece found in the January edition of Manitoba’s Teacher Society.  

Submitted by Kelley Moist, President CUPE MB and Gale Morton, Chairperson, CUPE MB, School Sector.

With the provincial election fast approaching, its time for all CUPE members to start taking about what’s at stake for our education system.

In the January edition of Manitoba Teachers Society “The Teacher” Brian Pallister claimed that he would not cut “Front-line” education workers.

While he failed to directly acknowledge the significant cuts to education his Progressive Conservative party made in the 1990s, he also hinted at what could be in store for education workers in the future.

In the article Pallister pledged to “eliminate the waste” in the education system, failing to identify what that “waste” may be. He also failed to identify who exactly qualifies as a “front-line” education worker.

“Eliminate waste” is often conservative double-speak for firing workers, slashing programming, cutting worker’ benefits, and rolling back wages. We’ve heard this type of language before by the likes of Rob Ford and his “reducing the gravy train”.

While Palmister boldly claims he would not directly cut teachers, he also makes no commitment to ensure School Divisions don’t do it for him. He makes it clear that decision is in the hands of autonomous school boards. If a Pallister government cuts education funding, a possibility he doesn’t rule out, School Boards will make decisions on what to cut – including firing teachers and other front-line education workers.

In one breath Pallister says he’ll not cut teachers, and in the next breath he says it’s really up to the school boards.

And what about the education assistants, custodians, bus drivers, librarians, school secretaries, and countless other education workers who dedicate their careers to supporting our youth? Like teachers, their jobs and the support they provide to students could also be eliminate jobs, and until he actually defines what a “front-line” education worker is, his promise to not cut jobs is nothing but an illusion.

Palmister’s end game is to play a slight-of-hand and lay the political fallout resulting from education cuts at the feet of municipally elected school trustees.

As CUPE members, we want a first class education system for our children. That requires a real commitment for funding from the provincial government. The Progressive Conservatives have a track record of program cuts and job losses – they wore those cuts in the ’90s so now they are finding a new way to spin them.

It will take more than conservative double speak to make Manitobans forget the stark contrast between the two records, and it’s up to us to inform our members what’s truly at stake this election.