Budget not enough to help the needy
May 14, 2013
Not everyone is happy with how the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board is about to achieve its balanced budget.
As senior management meet at the Ann Street education centre today to press for approval of the $180 million operational budget, dozens of support staff will rally outside the Belleville office to protest the deep job cuts used to balance the deficit-plagued books.
The union representing some 700 employees across the board has called on its members to demonstrate what they are calling the board's unbalanced approach to staff cuts.
About 35 employees represented by Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1022 will be out of work come September.
About 15 of those cuts will be full-time education assistants, 10 custodian jobs will be lost along with another 10 clerical staff.
The cuts were made in parcel with ongoing efforts to eliminate a $3.9 million shortfall this year, the union says.
Union heads say the "majority of those cuts are on the backs of front-line workers."
The board is just $250,000 shy of achieving a balanced position. Senior management will be asking trustees today to support plans to dip into the board surplus to cover the shortfall.
Union heads are complaining that the axe continues to fall deeper into their job numbers each year.
"It seems to be continual adding on our side," said Local 1022 president Donna Howes. "We haven't heard any announcements made of any further cuts, so we're just wondering where is the balanced approach?"
CUPE representatives hope Monday evening's Cuts Hurt Kids Rally will amplify their displeasure with the disproportionate number of lower income support staff, such as custodians and education assistants, who will get pink slips in comparison to the minimal cuts of mid-and senior-management positions.
"We are the lowest paid employees in the system and it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep cutting at that level," Howes said. "You have to make massive cuts in order to come with any amount of money."
Howes is also concerned how the cuts will impact the quality of service delivered to students across the system. There's also worry about the remaining staff shouldering a mounting workload created by staff reductions.
"Fewer educational assistants means students will have reduced access to the supports needed to succeed at school," said Howes. "Fewer clerical and custodial staff directly affects the health, safety and well-being of students. Staffing cuts in schools mean fewer services for kids. It's that simple."
Howes also blamed much of the board's financial woes on the Liberal government slashing education funding at a time when school services are already under pressure. Declining enrolment across the board isn't aiding money problems either. Less students means less ministry dollars.
"Next year we're faced with further declining enrolment, so we know there is more cuts coming," she said.
The rally is slated for 6 p.m.