Ontario CUPE education workers begin voting on whether to strike

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press

Posted on Friday, September 23, 2022 at 5:14 AM m. WBS

Ontario education workers, including librarians, custodians and administrative staff, will begin voting today on whether to strike, and their union recommends that they vote yes.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees called Ontario’s initial contract offer, which it made public, insulting.

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

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has criticized CUPE for planning strike votes since before the first offer was submitted.

The five main education unions in the province are negotiating new contracts with the government.

The 55,000 education workers who are members of CUPE will vote between now and October 2 on the strike.

Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, says the lack of progress in the last two days of bargaining “signified” why the strike vote is necessary.

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

The government has said it wants to tackle bigger issues at a later date, such as pay, job security, sick leave and benefits, Walton said. But even attempts to discuss simpler issues, such as bereavement leave and creating a pool of replacement workers to fill in when others are absent, have not been fruitful, she said.

Walton has previously said that holding a strike vote doesn’t necessarily mean workers will withdraw services, but he said in an interview this week that what people should be concerned about is the state of the schools right now. She said there are not enough educational assistants to provide adequate support and not enough custodians to clean the schools on a regular basis.

“Our goal is to continue to fight for the services our students need and we will continue to fight to make sure staff can afford to provide those services to students,” he said.

“Right now we are seeing a government that continues to disrespect workers.”

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

“It has never been clearer that CUPE will strike if its demand for an almost 50 percent increase in compensation is not met,” he wrote, referring to what the minister says would be the total salary and several other related proposals. with compensation.

“Instead of continuing their march to strike and shutdown, all unions should promise parents to stay at the table and keep children in the classroom. Education union strikes every three years hurt children and their working parents by repeatedly pushing them back.

The government has noted that CUPE is also calling for an additional five paid days before the start of the school year, 30 minutes of paid preparation time each day, and increasing overtime pay from a multiplier of 1.5 to 2.

Walton has said the government offer amounts to an extra $800 a year for the average worker earning $39,000.

CUPE and other unions have said they are pushing for raises both to offset the fact that their latest contracts are subject to a one percent annual legislative cap, known as Bill 124, and to address inflation, which is barely below seven percent.

CUPE has several more negotiation dates with the government scheduled for October, but no more before the strike vote is concluded.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 23, 2022.

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