Ontario CUPE education workers begin voting to strike
Ontario education workers, including librarians, custodians and administrative staff, are set to begin voting to strike today — and their union is recommending that they vote yes.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees made Ontario’s initial contract offer public, which was outrageous.
The government has offered an annual increase of two percent for workers earning less than $40,000 and 1.25 percent for all other workers, while CUPE is looking for an annual increase of 11.7 percent.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce has criticized CUPE for planning the strike vote even before the first proposal was presented.
Five major education unions in the province are negotiating new contracts with the government.
CUPE’s 55,000 education staff members are set to vote between today and October 2 to go on strike.
Discussions so far difficult, the union said
Laura Walton, chair of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, says the lack of progress in the bargaining over the past two days “strengthens” why the strike vote is necessary.
“Starting today (today), 55,000 front-line education workers will have a chance to give their bargaining committee a strike mandate to get the Ford government and school board trustees us to take seriously,” she said.
Walton said the government has said it wants to tackle bigger issues like pay, job security, sick leave and benefits at a later date. But efforts to discuss even simpler issues – such as bereavement leave and creating a replacement pool of workers to fill when others are away – have not been fruitful, she said.
Walton has previously said holding a strike vote does not mean workers will withdraw services, but said in an interview this week that people should worry about the state of schools right now. He said that there are not enough educational assistants to provide adequate support and there are not enough mentors to clean the schools regularly.
“Our goal is that we will continue to fight for the services our students need, and we will continue to fight to make sure that staff can provide those services to students,” she said.
“Right now we are seeing a government that is disrespecting the workers.”
Union is ‘moving ahead’ on strike, education minister said
Lecce said in a statement that education unions are clearly “moving ahead” towards the strike.
“It is not more clear that CUPE will go on strike if the demand for an almost 50 per cent hike in compensation is not met,” he wrote.
“Instead of continuing their march toward strike and disruption, all unions should promise parents that they will stay at the table and put children in classrooms. Every three years there is a strike by education unions for children and their working parents.” hurts them by repeatedly pushing them back.”
The government notes that CUPE is asking for five additional paid days before the start of the school year, 30 minutes of paid preparation time each day, and an increase in overtime pay by a multiple of 1.5 to 2.
Walton has stated that the government’s offer amounts to an additional $800 per year for the average worker making an average of $39,000.
CUPE and other unions have said they are pushing to increase compensation for their past contracts, subject to a legislative limit of one percent a year – known as Bill 124 – and to address inflation. To do so, which operates only under seven per cent.
CUPE has several more bargaining dates with the government set in October, but no more before the strike vote ends.