Feds cut funding for English class at Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon: union

Feds cut funding for English class at Maple Leaf Foods in Brandon: union

English as an additional language training for workers at a Brandon business could be scaled back or cut entirely due to a cut in funding.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 832, which represents workers at Brandon's Maple Leaf Foods processing plant, says the federal government has given them notice that their funding will be "largely or completely" cut at the end of June.

"We're very disappointed that the government has made this decision," UFCW Local 832 president Jeff Traeger told CBC News, adding that it was an "absolute shock."

UFCW Local 832 currently offers unionized workers at the plant stage one and most of stage two English language training. The classes are funded by the union, the federal government and by Maple Leaf, Traeger said. 

He said about 200 people use the program each year. Most of them are Maple Leaf workers, however family members of those workers are also allowed to take part. The union has been running EAL classes for more than a dozen years and has graduated 1,500 people, Traeger said. 

He said some graduates have even gone on to open their own businesses in the region.

Traeger and a union spokesperson both couldn't provide CBC News with exact figures on how funding for the program would be impacted.

"We've only just begun to figure out what exactly the impact will be," Traeger said. "Obviously it is going to be a significant impact." 

Traeger believes EAL programming will continue in Brandon in some capacity beyond June. It's the only program of its kind run by the UFCW in Manitoba. 

It's not just happening in Brandon, according to Traeger. He said programs across the country will be affected. 

"UFCW is lobbying the federal government to try and get them to change their minds related to this funding because it doesn't just affect Manitoba, it affects folks right across Canada," he said.

Assiniboine Community College, which also offers EAL classes in Brandon, said earlier this month that its funding was also being cut — from $730,000 this year to just $190,000 next year.

The federal government told CBC News earlier this month that it could not discuss funding decisions for specific organizations. Maple Leaf Foods did not respond to requests for comment from CBC News.