Ontario Education Worker Strike ‘Very Possible’ Following Failed Mediation
Ontario government and education workers have failed to find common ground as mediation breaks down. According to union representatives, a strike is “very possible” and it could start from next month. The president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) stated that the Ford government has failed to act on the proposals suggested by the council.
A collective agreement between more than 50,000 custodians, early childhood educators and school administration staff, and the government has not been reached since August. Salaries are the main point of discussion and in early October, CUPE stated that 96.5 percent of its members had agreed to walk off the job if an agreement is not reached. Ontario government has offered a 2 percent salary increase for education workers earning less than $40,000 a year while all other workers have been offered a 1.25 percent increase.
These terms are not acceptable to CUPE as it is arguing for a $3.25 per hour increase which amounts to about 11.7 percent annual increase. The council explained that these terms are reasonable since the cost of living has increased significantly but the provincial government has capped salary increases for the past three years.
Laura Walton, president of CUPE Ontario School Boards Council of Unions, said, “Unfortunately, there has not been any movement from the Ford government towards accepting our reasonable, affordable, and absolutely necessary proposals for student success.” Both parties have been requested by the mediator to meet on November 1 and try to find a solution that works.
If no agreement is made, the union can legally go on strike or launch a work-to-rule campaign from November 3. It does not mean that a strike is guaranteed, but it is “very possible.” Walton added, “We were just reflecting that in the past we tried work-to-rule with this difference and meant nothing to them, in fact, it was only when we went to a full withdrawal of services in 2019, when we were moving towards that, that we were actually able to get them to come and truly negotiate at the table.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement that the government’s offer is “reasonable” and that they are hoping for a better offer that is “affordable and fair” in comparison to the one already present.
As to what compromise the parties reach and how it affects the students, remains to be seen. Lecce is set to make an announcement on Thursday afternoon providing more clarity on the issue.