TORONTO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Ontario’s lowest-paid education workers are united in their fight for student success and good jobs.
In a historic strike vote, 45,433 of CUPE’s 55,000 front-line education workers voted, and 43,821 – an overwhelming majority of 96.5% – voted ‘yes’ to send a strong message to the Ford government:
Education cuts are not acceptable.
More frontline staff are urgently needed in schools for students to succeed.
It’s time for a significant pay raise.
“Education workers are standing up and saying with one voice: We demand better,” said Laura Walton, education assistant and president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU). “Workers need a long overdue increase and students deserve more staff to guarantee services.”
The workers’ central bargaining committee is calling on the Ford government to return to the bargaining table on October 6 to reach a collective agreement that meets the needs of students, parents and workers.
“We have proposals on the table to settle this round of contract negotiations – proposals that are reasonable, necessary and affordable,” Walton said. “This vote is about education workers across Ontario who are demonstrating our resolve to support these proposals and fight for a decent wage increase after 10 years of real wage cuts, as well as staffing levels and the security of the services that students need.”
Education workers voted ‘yes’ for an early childhood educator in every kindergarten classroom so that every four- and five-year-old has access to the play-based learning they need to thrive ; enough teaching assistants to ensure that every student receives the support they need; a sufficient number of library staff to ensure that school libraries are open and available to every student; and enough guards so that schools can be cleaned every day.
“My colleagues and I voted ‘yes’ because we will not take another pay cut,” Walton explained. “Everyone knows the Ford government can do so much better for students and workers. We expect the Minister of Education to send his negotiators back to the table to accept the proposals that frontline workers have overwhelmingly supported.
The strike vote took place from September 23 to October 2.
Ontario’s 55,000 front-line education workers are paid an average of just $39,000 a year.
More than 70% are women. More than half work at least one extra job to make ends meet and 60% are made redundant every summer.
Education workers negotiate for guarantees:
Enough teacher assistants so that all students get the support they need and schools can stop sending children home because there is no EA available;
An early childhood educator in every kindergarten classroom so that every four- and five-year-old receives the play-based learning support that is especially needed now after two years of pandemic isolation;
Enough library staff to ensure that school libraries are open and reading opportunities are available for children at all times;
Enough custodians to keep schools clean and enough maintenance workers and trades people to start tackling the $16 billion repair backlog; and
Adequate staffing of secretaries in school offices and enough dining room supervisors to ensure student safety.
The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) found that the Progressive Conservative government of Doug Ford cut education funding by $800 per student (adjusted for inflation) during its first term. With two million students in Ontario schools, that represents a funding cut of $1.6 billion last year alone – money that should have been used to improve supports for students , increase staffing levels to guarantee services and increase the salaries of education workers.
From 2012 to 2021, the lowest paid education workers have already taken an 11% pay cut.
According to a Financial Accountability Office report released last week, education workers stand to lose another 11.3%, meaning Ford government policies will revert to what the lowest paid education workers take a 22% pay cut over 13 years.
The workers’ wage proposal is an increase of $3.25 an hour each year in a three-year collective agreement. The Ford government’s offer was only 33¢ to 53¢ an hour, equivalent to the cost of less than a full tank of gas per month.