This article was written by Heidi Hovis - representing CUPE 1099
This article is funded by CUPE Union
I started working as an Educational Assistant in 2003 and I am making close to the same wages as I did when I started. When I look at cost of living numbers I don’t make that, or anywhere near it. My net income from my full-time position is $2,200/month. With no ability to be given extra hours or overtime, I have no choice but to work a second job. As a single parent, my hours for that second job are limited to weekends. So I never have a day off.
I am tired and worn out.
And I am one of the lucky ones. I have family who help me out. But I shouldn’t have to rely on family so often just because my employer won’t pay a fair wage.
I should be able to afford to support myself on my income. I shouldn’t have to rely on the food bank. There are weeks or months where I have less than $100.00 in the bank and have to budget for groceries, gas, and needed clothing.
The Alberta Government has handed out directives to school districts. Their wage package works out to 61 cents per hour at the end of five years. After eight years without a wage increase, I can wait five more years to get an extra $50.00 per paycheck.
The average educational worker in Alberta makes $34,300 per year. The wages for Educational Assistants are even lower at $26,388 per year. Inflation has moved this wage to just below the Alberta poverty line of $26,550.
The Alberta Government claims to have increased education funding, but that doesn’t get to the school level, where increased enrolment has forced school districts to make cuts and the kids are suffering. Enrolment has increased to the point that we are running out of classrooms, the hallways are an anxiety nightmare for students, and there isn’t enough staff to address all of the needs of all of our students on a daily basis. We need renovations, we need more schools, we need more staff, and we need to pay staff a living wage so that they can live in the communities where they work.
Educational assistants are critical to keeping classrooms functioning. They work to support children with diverse learning needs. They should not be earning less than poverty line wages.
Students need Educational Assistants. Our teachers, our schools, and our families need Educational Assistants. I love my job. I work with many EA’s who love their jobs and want to continue doing them but it is getting harder everyday that we go without a wage increase. We also have families and students who also need EA’s and we need to be able to support our families and ourselves. We need a real cost of living wage increase.
We need your help. We cannot do this without the support from parents whose children attend the schools in our community. We need your support so that the best school support staff are able to continue doing what they love and afford to live in the communities that they serve.
Go to https://weworkforalberta.ca/albertakids and listen to our stories, send a letter to your MLA and School Board Trustees. Become informed about how the lack of money that is being put into education across all of Alberta is affecting all of our children.
Help us to continue in our work to help every child and student that comes through our doors, including our own.