Following the announcement of CUPE Ontario education workers’ ratification of the tentative collective agreement negotiated between OSBCU, the CTA and the Crown, CUPE Ontario shared the following statement with members:
On behalf of all members of CUPE Ontario, we send our heartfelt congratulations to our union’s education workers, members of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), at the conclusion of their historic round of collective bargaining and on the clear results of the ratification vote announced today.
What is significant for so many in our union, and in fact for the entire labour movement, is the incredible job that CUPE/OSBCU has done in mobilizing all 55,000 CUPE education workers during this round of central bargaining.
The tremendous engagement of members in the bargaining process is an unprecedented organizing achievement in our movement. The proof lies in the fact that nearly four times more members voted in this ratification than voted in 2019’s ratification ballot. Right to the end of the process, members have shown themselves to be committed, involved and determined to have their voices heard.
Everyone in OSBCU can and should be enormously proud of the leadership of Sister Laura Walton, OSBCU president, and of the entire central bargaining team. We are incredibly proud too of all the solidarity efforts CUPE Ontario was able to add to their hard work and effective mobilization. We will continue working shoulder to shoulder with them and with every local in the sector, to maintain and grow the powerful and extraordinary mobilization of CUPE education workers.
Education workers have set a new standard for member organizing, one to admire and emulate across our entire union. We at CUPE Ontario look forward to working with sectors, locals and members to ensure these kinds of achievements are replicated across our union and our movement.
Alongside the historic participation of workers in the sector, this round of fully free collective bargaining also sets a new standard for wage increases in the broader public sector; it completely eliminates concessions that would have been devastating for workers, students and schools; and it safeguards jobs and job security, which will benefit students and workers.
There remains work to do, however, to protect and strengthen our public education system, and in particular the important supports provided by CUPE education workers. But bargaining is just one of tools that CUPE Ontario uses to win better and improved services for students; our advocacy for more and better for workers and for public services has never been restricted to contract negotiations alone.
All CUPE Ontario stands ready to continue this important work, because our kids, our communities, and our members deserve nothing less. We will continue to campaign, to raise awareness, to work with labour allies, to lobby elected representatives, to engage parents and the public, to advocate for what students and workers deserve. That’s how we secure the gains that our communities need.
We must also never forget that we reached this point after a historic and successful fightback, waged against Doug Ford’s Conservatives and their massive overreach in using the Charter’s Notwithstanding Clause to pass a despicable piece of legislation, Bill 28. This law stripped education workers of their constitutional right to free collective bargaining and their right to strike, and it imposed a contract with concessions to sick leave and many other components that would have been devastating for workers and students alike. The government’s contract would also have imposed two-tier wages on education workers and awarded pay increases totalling less than half the amount ratified in the end by education workers.
This massive overreach by the Ford government and its clear disregard for workers’ rights prompted a province-wide display of solidarity, accompanied by an unprecedented series of actions: first by CUPE Ontario/OSBCU education workers, who walked off the job for two days in a political protest against Bill 28; next by a historic coming together of allies in the Ontario labour movement, as well as other sectors and locals across CUPE in Ontario; and then by unions and labour organizations across the country. Collectively, these actions led to nothing less than the complete and total repeal of a Bill and a restoration of workers’ rights.
We will never forget the heroic and historic reaction that met this draconian legislation; it has strengthened our movement immeasurably. And it is critical to remember the courage and resolve of CUPE Ontario/OSBCU education workers; they were 100% the catalyst for this solidarity. We must never forget this fundamental moment in our collective history and the lessons it holds for us: when workers and communities stand together, we can move mountains.