Ontario education workers, including librarians, janitors and administrative staff, are set to start voting today on whether to strike – and their union recommends they vote yes.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees called Ontario’s initial contract offer, which it made public, insulting.
The government has offered increases of 2% per year for workers earning less than $40,000 and 1.25% for all other workers, while CUPE is aiming for annual increases of 11.7%.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce criticized CUPE for planning strike votes before the first offer was even tabled.
The five main education unions in the province are all in the process of negotiating new contracts with the government.
CUPE’s 55,000 education workers are due to vote between now and October 2 on whether to strike.
Tough talks so far, says union
Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, says the lack of progress over the past two days of bargaining has “confirmed” why the strike vote is necessary.
“Starting (today), 55,000 frontline education workers will have the chance to give their bargaining committee a strike mandate to get the Ford government and school trustees to take us seriously. “, she said.
The government has said it wants to tackle the biggest 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 replacement pool of workers to replace when others are absent — have not been successful, she said. declared.
Walton has previously said that holding a strike vote does not necessarily mean workers will withdraw their services, but said in an interview this week that what people should be worried about is the state of the schools right now. She said there were not enough teaching assistants to provide adequate support and not enough guards to regularly clean the schools.
“Our goal is that we will continue to fight for the services that our students need, and we will continue to fight to ensure that staff can afford to provide these services to students,” she said. .
“Right now we see a government that continues to disrespect working people.”
The union is “rushing” towards the strike, according to the Minister of Education
Lecce said in a statement that the education unions were “clearly heading” towards a strike.
“Never has it been clearer that CUPE will strike if their demand for a nearly 50% pay increase is not met,” he wrote, referring to what the minister said. said to be the total salaries and various other compensation-related proposals.
“Instead of continuing their march towards strikes and disruptions, all unions should promise parents that they will stay at the table and keep the children in the classrooms. Education union strikes every three years injure children and their working parents by repeatedly rolling them back.”
The government noted that CUPE is also asking for five extra 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 multiplier of 1.5 to 2. .
Walton said the government’s offer amounts to an extra $800 a year for the average worker earning $39,000.
CUPE and other unions have said they are demanding increases to compensate for the fact that their latest contracts were subject to a legislative cap of one per cent a year – known as Bill 124 – and to fight against inflation, which is just under seven percent.
CUPE has several more dates for negotiations with the government scheduled for October, but no more until the end of the strike vote.