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Halifax support workers strike impacting students and families

The father of disabled teen from Fall River, N.S. is calling on all sides to get back to the bargaining table and put an end to the Halifax area CUPE educational support worker strike.

“This has gone on too long and it is not fair for the kids,” Mohsen Nakad sid.

His 13-year-old son Abraham Nakad attends Georges P. Vanier Junior High School, but for the past four weeks, he hasn't been able to attend school with workers from CUPE local 5047 on strike.

Nakad supports the workers on strike and wants the government and all sides to get back to the negotiation table and come to an agreement soon.

“For me, I am supporting the EPAs, because I know how much our life is easier with them,” Nakad said.

His son Abraham is autistic and has cerebral palsy. He’s nonverbal and communicates through a tablet device. At school he is supported by educational program assistants, or EPAs.

Abraham would like to be back in school and he reminds his father of that at least a dozen times every day.

Abraham taps on his tablet device to send a message to his father.

“I...want...school...school,” Abraham said through the tablet. He hit the message button again, to emphasize: “I want to go to school.”

“It's unfair, it makes me very sad for my son and his friends,” Nakad said.

“Just because they have disabilities doesn't mean they should have to miss school.”

Abraham and his father joined school support workers on the picket line Wednesday outside Georges P. Vanier School.

The past three years have been challenging for Nakad, he’s a single father of two children and a small business owner.

While Abraham was at home during the pandemic, Nakad says he was forced to close his convenience store.

Now Nakad had been preparing to open a pet grooming salon, but with the ongoing strike he’s putting that on hold for now to care for his son at home.

“I have to postpone everything now because I cannot look after my business. I have to be with Abraham all the time.”

In Dartmouth, CUPE leaders joined a rally organized by the Nova Scotia NDP.

CUPE Nova Scotia president Nan McFadgen wants Premier Tim Houston’s PC government and Halifax Regional Centre for Education to get back to the negotiating table and work out a resolution.

“We’re disappointed that we’re still here,” McFadgen said.

Seven of the eight regional CUPE groups voted to accept the province's offer, but the Halifax area local voted against the offer. The group is looking for better wages, McFadgen said.

“And this local decided that it wasn’t enough and now they are going to walk the picket line for better wages and that needs to be OK to happen in Nova Scotia,” said McFadgen. “A local has a democratic right to either accept or decline an offer.”

The Nova Scotia’s Education Minister said in a statement Wednesday that the department remains hopeful that the job action will end and that impacted students will be able to return to school before the end of June.

“The first step is for the union to reach out to the employer, HRCE [Halifax Regional Centre for Education],” said Becky Druhan.

“HRCE has contacted the union regarding ways to support students who rely on the striking workers, but the union has refused to participate. HRCE is doing everything it can to support students and minimize impacts of the strike,” the minister said.

Both the union and government said there are no scheduled talks at this time.

Nakad urges the government to meet with the union and get a deal done to salvage the remaining school year.

“We need to see this government doing something for our kids,” said Nakad. “This isn’t fair for them.” 

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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