Union wants 11.7% raise for Ontario education workers in bargaining proposal

By Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

A union representing Ontario education workers is asking the province for annual wage increases of $3.25 per hour – or 11.7 per cent — as the two sides hash out a new collective agreement.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees — which represents 55,000 workers, including early childhood educators, school administration workers, bus drivers and custodians — shared a summary of bargaining proposals it submitted Tuesday as negotiations continue ahead of existing contracts expiring at the end of this month.

The union argued that workers’ wages have been restricted over the last decade and noted that inflation is expected to rise further.

Public sector workers have had wage increases limited to one per cent annually in recent years due to a controversial government bill.

CUPE said an average wage for permanent employees is currently $27.87, and the president of  its Ontario School Boards Council of Unions said moves limiting education funding by the government and school boards have “put many education workers on the brink of poverty.”

“Students and workers both deserve better than the crumbs this government throws our way, so my coworkers and I are willing to fight for what students need in the classroom and what we need to do our jobs even better,” she said in a written statement.

ontario schools School buses are seen in a lot in Ottawa on April 18, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Other education unions in the process of negotiating new contracts with the provincial government have also said they intend to argue for bigger raises to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of living.

Statistics Canada said the annual inflation rate for June was 8.1 per cent, the largest increase since 1983.

The president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation told The Canadian Press last month that her union is looking for a wage increase that will keep up with inflation and not be restricted by legislation.

Ford promising increase, Lecce doesn’t comment

Premier Doug Ford has said teachers will get a raise larger than one per cent in their new contracts but hasn’t set an exact figure.

Other bargaining proposals from CUPE include asking for minimum weekly hours of work for full-time staff and minimum standards on vacation and leaves of absence, as well as funding to extend benefits to more workers.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on CUPE’s proposed wage increase.

Negotiations were fraught during the bargaining phase three years ago, when teachers took work-to-rule action at various points.

Lecce and Ford have both stressed early in this negotiation period that they don’t want such labour disruptions to happen again.

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