Ontario CUPE education workers vote 96.5 per cent in favour of strike mandate

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Published October 3, 2022 at 11:37 am

A teacher walks in the hall of a public school in Scarborough, Ont., on Monday, September 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Ontario education workers such as librarians, custodians and school administration staff have voted 96.5 per cent in favour of a strike.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees announced Monday that more than 80 per cent of its 55,000 education worker members voted and the vast majority supported the bargaining team’s demands and giving them a strike mandate.

Laura Walton, the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said the bargaining team can now go back to the table with a clear indication of the level of support members have for CUPE’s proposals.

“(The message is that) education cuts are not acceptable, that more front-line education staff is urgently needed for students to succeed and it’s time for a meaningful wage increase for us, the lowest paid education workers who earn on average $39,000 a year,” she said at a news conference Monday.

“No one wants to strike, especially not the lowest-paid education workers in Ontario … but education workers have said very clearly, if this government will not budge we are willing to strike for a contract that is good for students, for families and for workers.”

CUPE has bargaining dates scheduled with the government on Thursday, Friday, and Oct. 17 and 18.

The government has offered raises of two per cent a year for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all other workers, while CUPE is looking for annual increases of 11.7 per cent.

Walton has said the government’s offer amounts to an extra $800 a year for the average worker.

Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said the results of the vote were disappointing but “not surprising.”

“CUPE is charging ahead with a strike while demanding nearly 50 per cent in increased compensation after two difficult years of pandemic disruptions for students,” Lecce said in a statement to inSauga.

“As CUPE moves ahead towards a strike that hurts kids and disrupts families — leaving behind a reasonable offer that also protects the most generous benefits and pension plan in the country — we will continue to remain at the table to make sure kids stay in class without interruption right through to June.”

The government has noted that CUPE is also asking for five additional 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.

All five major education unions are in the midst of bargaining with the government after their contracts expired Aug. 31.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.

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