Shortage and precarious jobs are affecting English schools

15 November 2022

Eastern Shores School Board

The shortage of school support staff and precarious jobs are affecting English schools

 “The shortage of school support staff and precarious jobs are affecting the quality of services offered to students and having a detrimental impact on staff.”

This is the situation denounced today at a press conference by FPSS-CSQ Vice-President Stéphane Soumis who was visiting Sept-Îles to meet the support staff members who work at the Eastern Shores School Board.  He used the occasion to take stock of their problems.

A Generalized Precariousness

The biggest problem for certain is the high rate of precariousness, which affects 80% of the staff at the School Board, three-quarters of whom are women.  This has serious consequences.  It should come as no surprise that the School Board is having difficulty recruiting staff,” says Stéphane Soumis.

School Support Staff in the Shadows

School support staff represent 34% of the people working at the Eastern Shores School Board. In providing manual, technical, paratechnical or direct support to students, these people contribute to education by supporting teachers, professionals and managers. Eastern Shores Union Support Staff President (ESUSS-CSQ) Joe Dow says, “We are too often forgotten, we do not work in the shadows, we deserve full and complete recognitions.”

A Viable Income

Treasury Board data shows that the average salary for school support staff in 2022 is $24,522 per year, while an Institute for Socioeconomic Research and Information (IRIS) study on viable determined that the viable income for a single person in Sept-Îles would be $34,814.

The large number of part-time positions partially explains this low average salary, but even if these people were to obtain full-time positions, they would still represent little more than half of the people with incomes of less than $34,814.

Improve the Quality of School Support Staff Jobs

The staffing shortage is a major issue for the members of the FPSS-CSQ. The Federation is therefore, in the context of these negotiations, demanding very specific measures to improve the attraction and retention of personnel.

Stéphane Soumis refers to a few demands, emphasizing that “the attraction and retention of school support staff depends on quality jobs with full-time positions, the end of split shifts, the promotion of all school support jobs, and family-work balance.  We need to see concrete actions from the government to resolve these problems, and this will necessitate negotiations.”

The Challenge of Anglophone Schools in a Francophone Province 

Maintaining anglophone schools in a francophone province requires the contributions of local people, but recruiting staff is even more difficult when looking for bilingual candidates.  “It’s not easy to find staff who speak English for all our job categories and sometimes we must hire people who speak only French.  We love the French language, but our job is to provide support to our English-speaking community on a daily basis, so we need to create the conditions to attract these people and help the people already in place to learn the English language,” says Mr. Dow.

He adds that, “despite everything, registration of youths at the preschool, primary and secondary level is stable, so it’s reassuring that there is still a place for us.”

More Attractive Jobs Elsewhere

Joe Dow also says that companies in the region are offering more attractive jobs. “Several of our members, be they secretaries, workers or special education technicians, are being drawn to positions elsewhere, where they are guaranteed to get more hours of work, a sometimes lighter work load, and better wages.  The school board is losing out on valuable expertise, “ says the ESUSS-CSQ President regretfully.