Statement from Ontario education workers on collective bargaining with Ford government
The following is a statement form Laura Walton, an educational assistant from Belleville, Ontario and the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU), on behalf of education workers’ central bargaining committee:
Frontline education workers are not holding a strike vote on August 22. We know that workers understanding and using our collective power is crucial to winning long overdue gains for students, Ontario families, and each other, so we’re gathering to discuss what our response might be if the Ford government keeps delaying getting a deal done into the fall.
Frontline education workers who are the backbone of Ontario’s public schools are paid on average only $39,000 a year. We’ve had our wages unfairly suppressed by government interference in collective bargaining for most of the last decade.
The majority of us are women, 51% of us personally subsidize schools by working second jobs, and many of us are paid for only 10 months a year meaning we get laid off every summer and have to rely on unemployment insurance to have any income for the other two months, if we can even qualify.
Ten years of government attacks on education workers’ wages and government interference in our collective bargaining rights have resulted in wage settlements from 2012 to 2021 that equaled 8.8% (compounded) while inflation to the end of 2021 has totaled 19.5%. So our pay cheques have been eroded nearly 11% over the last decade.
With inflation well over 7% in 2022 this will amount to a wage cut of more than 17% for education workers, leaving us with less and less money to support ourselves and our families.
The government has met with education workers’ representatives at the bargaining table only five times so far out of the 70 days since we served notice to bargain on June 3.
On August 2, education workers presented a full package of bargaining proposals in an effort to push Doug Ford’s government to get a fair deal done before September. Government negotiators have not yet provided a response to our reasonable, necessary, and affordable proposals.
Our Proposals for Student Success and Good Jobs, if accepted, would:
· Guarantee increased services for students;
· Protect service levels against cuts;
· Help solve school boards’ problems retaining and recruiting workers; and
· Increase government funding for children’s education after 10 years of real cuts.
We’re seeking a pay increase of $3.25 per hour, not a percentage, because this is fairer. With our proposal, the less a worker is paid now, the more they’ll gain if $3.25 per hour is converted into a percentage of their current wage.
The gap between the working poor and super-rich in Ontario is only growing and education workers are feeling the impact every day just like you. The Ford government can’t seem to cheer loud enough for men getting fair and necessary pay increases while attacking the women who are the backbone of your public schools.
· The Teamsters got a 19.5% increase in the first year of one of their collective agreements that was ratified this March.
· The Carpenters, Local 27, got 15% in the first year of their contract ratified in April.
· Construction labourers, LiUNA members, got an average of 9.5% over a three-year collective agreement, also ratified in April.
The Ontario government – your government – just got reelected by promising to, and I’m quoting here, “always have workers’ backs” and premier Ford repeated over and over again that he’ll “get it done.”
Education workers are just holding our premier and MPPs to their word and saying: You have the power. Get it done now, in August, because students deserve protection from cuts, workers deserve to be paid better, and you have the power to avert more classroom upheaval this fall.
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