I now have confirmation that the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 748, in BC, is planning to remove the "detriment of the child" clause from its collective agreement with the school district(s) it serves. This clause ensures that no changes are made to the staffing for a child with a disability if that disability is one that requires consistency in said staffing (i.e., children with severe disabilities that require specialized supports in order to be included in their school settings; such support positions typically pay more than others).
To make things more clear, what this means is that special education aides (SEAs) in the union will no longer have any job security whatsoever, unless they're lucky enough to have the seniority required to let them pick and choose the plum assignments. While education and experience will likely still have a bearing on the hiring decisions, gone will be the days of a child retaining his or her aide throughout several years of his or her education. Retaining an SEA is important, mainly for continuity of care and security of the child. It also means that precious time is not lost at the beginning of the school year, as the SEA and the child get to know one another. When a change is made, the new hire needs to be introduced before the end of the prior school year, and the old aide needs to train the new one, gradually stepping back until he or she is completely out of the picture.
Without the "detriment of the child" clause in place, the schools will not be able to take into account the wishes of the children or families they serve. No, they will, instead, be required to allow 60yo Anne, who's been a secretary for the last 20 years, be an SEA for Billy, an 8yo autistic child, because she's taken a couple of courses in being an SEA and has seniority over Elizabeth, who is 24yo, has been working with autistic children for the last five years, and has been Billy's SEA for the last two. (Please note: None of these people are real. I made them up. It could happen, though, and that's the scary thing.)
I hate unions. Let's be clear on that right now. I think unions are, by and large, a huge waste of time. They are still necessary in some industries (e.g., mining), but overall they cause more headaches than they solve. Unions benefit the people at the top and screw over the people at the bottom. No different from the rest of society, I suppose. Part of the reason so many people in the automobile production industry got laid off was that the union refused to renegotiate wages. So, since the companies had to cut costs somewhere, they had to fire a bunch of good workers because they couldn't afford to pay them anymore. That's how messed up unions are.
Now, let's look at how unions (at least in Canada) work for the schools. What we have is a teacher's union and a support staff union. In the teacher's union, we find - well - teachers. In the support staff union, we find secretaries, bus drivers, janitors, librarians, and SEAs, to name a few.
What's the problem here?
The problem is that SEAs work directly with children and enhance their learning. Without the SEA, the child often can't attend school. This is very different from the other occupations included in their union - these occupations do not work directly with the children, and their presence does not make or break the children's education.
Real life example of how completely screwed up this system is:
A couple of years ago, the teachers in Calgary went on strike. Okay, that's the way it goes. All the children stayed home from school, because there were no teachers, so no education for any of them. Eventually, the union and the school board got things sorted out, and everyone went back to school.
Then the support staff union (CUPE) went on strike. The difference here was that all the kids still went to school. Except the kids who needed SEAs.
This is not equal opportunity education. It is not equality. It is discrimination.
If there must be unions, the SEAs should be in the same union as the teachers, or they should have their own separate union.
Children shouldn't be denied an adequate education simply because some people at the top of CUPE want to make a buck.