CUPE education workers in Ontario begin voting on whether to strike

Education workers in Ontario, including librarians, administrators and administrators, will begin voting today on whether to strike – and their union recommends voting yes.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees has called Ontario’s first contract offer, which it made public, offensive.

The government has offered raises of 2 percent per year for workers earning less than $40,000 and 1.25 percent for all other workers, while CUPE is targeting annual raises of 11.7 percent.

Education Secretary Stephen Lecce has criticized CUPE for planning strike votes before the first bid has even been submitted.

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The province’s five major education unions are in the process of negotiating new contracts with the government.

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CUPE’s 55,000 members in education will vote between today and October 2 on whether to strike.

Laura Walton, the union council president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board, says the lack of progress over the past two days of negotiations has “underpinned” why the strike vote is necessary.

“Starting (today) 55,000 frontline education workers have the opportunity to give their bargaining committee a strike mandate so that the Ford government and school board trustees take us seriously,” she said.

The government has announced it will address the larger issues of wages, job security, sick leave and benefits at a later date, Walton said. But even attempts to discuss simpler issues – like bereavement leave and creating a replacement pool of workers to be used in the absence of others – have not been successful, she said.

Walton has previously said that holding a strike vote doesn’t necessarily mean workers will stop their services, but said in an interview this week that people should be concerned about the state of schools right now. She said there weren’t enough educational assistants to provide adequate support and not enough janitors to clean schools regularly.

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“Our goal is that we continue to fight to provide the services our students need, and we will continue to fight to ensure staff can afford those services to students,” she said.

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“Right now we’re seeing a government that just continues to disregard workers.”

Lecce said in a statement that education unions are clearly “rushing” towards a strike.

“It has never been clearer that if its demand for a nearly 50 percent pay rise is not met, CUPE will lash out,” he wrote, referring to the total wages and various other compensation-related proposals, such as the minister said.

“Instead of continuing their march towards strikes and riots, all unions should promise parents to stay at the table and keep the children in the classrooms. Education union strikes every three years harm children and their working parents by setting them back time and time again.”

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Ontario proposes a 2% pay rise for low-paid education workers

The Government has stated that CUPE is also demanding five additional paid days before the start of the school year, 30 minutes of paid preparation time per day and an increase in overtime pay from a multiplier of 1.5 to 2.

Walton said the government’s offer is an additional $800 a year for the average worker earning $39,000.

CUPE and other unions have said they are pushing for increases both to compensate for the fact that their most recent contracts are subject to a statutory cap of 1% per annum – known as Bill 124 – and to address inflation, which is scarce is below seven percent.

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CUPE has several more dates scheduled for negotiations with the government in October, but not before the strike vote is complete.

© 2022 The Canadian Press CUPE education workers in Ontario begin voting on whether to strike


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