Toronto, ON – Ontario’s lowest-paid education workers are united in their fight for student success and good jobs.
In an historic strike vote, 45,433 out of 55,000 frontline CUPE education workers cast ballots, and 43,821 – an overwhelming 96.5% – voted “yes” to send a strong message to the Ford government:
- Education cuts are not acceptable.
- More frontline staff are urgently needed in schools for students to succeed.
- It’s time for a significant pay increase.
“Education workers are standing up and saying in one unified voice: we demand better,” said Laura Walton, educational assistant and president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU). “Workers need a long-overdue raise and students deserve more staff to guarantee services.”
The workers’ central bargaining committee is calling on the Ford government to come back to the bargaining table on October 6 to reach a collective agreement that meets the needs of students, parents, and workers.
“We have proposals on the table to settle this round of contract negotiations – proposals that are reasonable, necessary, and affordable,” said Walton. “This vote is about education workers across Ontario demonstrating our resolve to stand behind those proposals and fight for a decent pay increase after 10 years of real wage cuts, and for the staffing levels and service security that students need.”
Education workers voted “yes” to an early childhood educator in every kindergarten classroom so every four- and five-year-old would have access to the play-based learning they need to thrive; enough educational assistants that every student would get the support they need; enough library workers to ensure school libraries are open and available for every student; and enough custodians so schools can be cleaned every day.
“My coworkers and I voted ‘yes’ because we will not accept another pay cut,” Walton explained. “Everyone knows the Ford government can do so much better for students and workers. We expect the education minister to send his negotiators back to the table to accept the proposals that frontline workers have overwhelmingly supported.”
The strike vote was held from September 23 to October 2.
Ontario’s 55,000 frontline education workers are paid on average only $39,000 per year.
More than 70% are women. More than half work at least one additional job to make ends meet and 60% are laid off every summer.
Education workers are bargaining for guarantees of:
- enough educational assistants so all students would get the supports they need and so schools could stop sending kids home because there isn’t an EA available;
- an early childhood educator in every kindergarten classroom so every four- and five-year-old would get the play-based learning support that’s especially necessary now after two years of pandemic isolation;
- enough library workers to make sure school libraries are open and reading opportunities are available to kids all the time;
- enough custodians to keep schools clean and enough maintenance workers and tradespeople to begin to tackle the $16 billion repair backlog; and
- adequate staffing of secretaries in school offices and enough lunchroom supervisors to keep students safe.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) found that Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government cut education funding by $800 per student (adjusted for inflation) over its first term. With two million students in Ontario’s schools, that’s a $1.6 billion cut in funding last year alone – money that should have been used to improve supports for students, increase staffing levels to guarantee services, and raise the wages of education workers.
From 2012 to 2021, the lowest-paid education worker have already taken an 11% wage cut.
According to a Financial Accountability Office report published last week, education workers stand to lose another 11.3%, meaning the Ford government’s policies will amount to the lowest-paid education workers taking a 22% wage cut over a 13-year period.
Workers’ wage proposal is an increase of $3.25 per hour each year in a three-year collective agreement. The Ford government’s offer was just 33¢ to 53¢ an hour – the equivalent of the cost of less than one tank of gas per month.