KAWARTHA LAKES–The Ontario government today introduced legislation that would, if passed, prevent education workers such as Educational Assistants and janitorial staff from legally walking off the job and establishing a four-year collective agreement with CUPE education workers across the province.
“Students are finally back in class catching up, following two years of pandemic disruptions. We are disappointed that CUPE is refusing to compromise on their demand for a nearly 50 per cent increase in compensation, representing a price tag close to $19-billion if extended across the sector,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “CUPE has now made the decision to strike, putting their own self interest ahead of Ontario’s nearly two million children, who deserve to stay in class learning. We are delivering on our promise to parents that our government will do whatever it takes to keep students in class, so they can catch up and get back to the basics of learning.”
However, the union says its members will walk-off the job on Friday in Protest. Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions, accused the government of “bullying.”
“They are using the nuclear option because a group of workers has gotten extremely strong,” she said
The government says tn an attempt to reach an agreement and protect in-class learning for nearly two million students, the government extended an updated proposal to CUPE that enhanced Ontario’s offer. The Keeping Students in Class Act would, if passed, establish a four-year collective agreement for Ontario’s 55,000 education workers that includes:
- A salary increase of 2.5 per cent (increased from an initial offer of 2 per cent) for employees with the top end of their salary/wage grids below $43,000 annually (increased from $40,000) and 1.5 per cent (increased from 1.25 per cent) for employees with the top end of their salary/wage grids above that amount for each year of the contract;
- An increase in benefits contributions resulting in a $6,120 annual employer contribution per employee by August 31, 2026;
- Funding through the Support for Students Fund, estimated to support up to 875 teachers and between 1,600 and 1,830 education workers;
- Modification to sick leave and short-term disability leave plan provisions that protect stability of student learning, while maintaining generous pension, benefits and sick leave programs;
- $4.5 million in funding for apprenticeship training; and
- An extension of modified job security provisions.
This Act would provide that it shall operate notwithstanding sections 2, 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and despite the Human Rights Code.
The government says it will continue bargaining.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said it “unequivocally” condemned the move in a press release on Monday.
The union representing some 83,000 Ontario elementary teachers said it ended its own negotiations with the government for Monday due to the governments new legislation.
“ETFO stands with CUPE members and their right to strike for better pay and working conditions, and not with a regressive government that is cloaking anti-labour legislation as being pro-education,” said ETFO President Karen Brown.