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HomeNationalOntario CUPE education workers begin voting on whether to strikeTAZAA News

Ontario CUPE education workers begin voting on whether to strikeTAZAA News

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

The Canadian Union of Public Employees called Ontario’s initial contract offer a disgrace.

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 an annual increase of 11.7 per cent.

Education Minister Stephen Lexey criticized CUPE for planning strike votes before even making the first offer.

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The province’s five major education unions are in the midst of negotiating new contracts with the government.

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CUPE’s 55,000 education activist members are set to vote between today and October 2 on whether to strike.

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

“Starting today, 55,000 front-line education workers will have a chance to give their bargaining committee a strike mandate to make the Ford government and school board trustees take us seriously,” she said.

Walton said the government wants to address big issues like pay, job security, sick leave and benefits at a later date. But even efforts to negotiate common issues — such as bereavement leave and creating replacement workers to fill in when others are away — have been futile, she said.

Walton has previously said holding a strike vote doesn’t mean workers have to withdraw services, but said in an interview this week that what people should be concerned about is the current state of schools. She said there were not enough educational assistants to provide adequate support and not enough custodians to clean the schools regularly.

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CUPE will set strike votes for late September, which does not guarantee a walkout

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

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“Right now we are seeing a government that disrespects workers.”

Lecce said in a statement that education unions were clearly “pre-charging” towards a strike.

“It has never been more clear that CUPE will strike unless its demand for an increase of around 50 per cent in compensation is delivered,” he said, referring to what the minister said were salary increases and various other compensation-related proposals.

“Instead of continuing their march towards strike and disruption, all unions should assure parents that they will be at the table and keep children in classrooms. Every three-year strike by education unions hurts children and their working parents by repeatedly turning them back.

Also read:

Ontario has proposed a 2% raise for low-wage education workers

The government noted that CUPE is asking for five additional paid days before the start of the school year, 30 minutes of pay preparation time each day and an increase in overtime pay from a factor of 1.5 to 2.

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

CUPE and other unions said their last contract was pushing for raises to compensate for being subject to a legislative cap of one percent a year — known as Bill 124 — and to address inflation, which is just under seven percent.

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CUPE has more bargaining dates with the government scheduled for October, but not before the strike vote ends.

© 2022 Canadian Press

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