Leadership with the Ministry of Education and the Ontario government say they’re doing everything they can to stop education workers from striking again across the province.
This comes as members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees gave the government another 5-day notice to strike on November 16, which leaves a second protest possible for Monday, November 21.
The union says after resuming negotiations with the government, following Bill 28 getting repealed on Monday, they were able to reach common ground on wages – but the government wouldn’t budge on CUPE’s demands for additional supports and staffing levels within schools.
“This is not where we wanted to be,” said Laura Walton, President of CUPE-OSBCU and an education assistant herself.
“We hoped the Ford government would accept our reasonable, affordable, and necessary proposals five months ago. We hoped they’d recognize the urgency of workers’ plea for resources in our historic strike vote. We hoped they’d respond to last week’s show of parent and worker solidarity. Yet they came back without a single cent for students. They’ve left us no choice.”
CUPE has been calling for annual wage increases of nearly 12 per cent for all workers, with increases in overtime pay, additional education assistants and custodians, and increased staffing levels in libraries, offices and lunchrooms.
“CUPE walked away. We want them back at the table. We want kids back in school,” responded Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education, Patrice Barnes, in an interview with Q104, KenoraOnline and DrydenNow.
“You said it was about the lowest-paid worker,” she adds. “You said it was about wages. We have put that on the table. You said it was about Bill 28. We’ve taken that off the table. We’ve pretty much given them everything that they’ve asked for, to the tune of more than $325 million more.”
Ontario MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence, Robin Martin, points out that over the last 20 years, Ontario has hired 50 per cent more education workers for students while populations in schools remained about the same.
Kenora Catholic schools were closed during November 4’s strike-action as members of OPSEU joined CUPE in solidarity, but were open on November 7. Keewatin-Patricia schools remained open on both days with support from non-union staff members.
CUPE represents over 50,000 education workers such as administrators, custodians and more.