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TORONTO — The union representing 55,000 education workers in Ontario has announced five days in advance that it will resume strike action on Nov. 21.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) rejected the government’s offer and is threatening a general strike next Monday if negotiations don’t continue fairly. Education Secretary Stephen Lecce replies that the government has made a generous offer of $335 million over four years for the lowest paid workers.
Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU) president Laura Walton said the increase is one dollar an hour. According to the union, this is real progress, but not enough.
CUPE said despite “numerous attempts to reach a freely negotiated solution,” talks with the provincial government have failed again.
The government and union would still be in the negotiation process, but by issuing this strike threat Laura Walton certainly intends to speed up negotiations.
In a press conference Wednesday morning in Toronto, the President said: “My 55,000 employees are the foundation of this system, without them the schools would not function, without them the students would not learn. »
Not a question of money, but of services
“I want to explain what was included in the government’s offer and what wasn’t,” she explained. “They offered my co-workers a $1 an hour raise for the four years of our contract. That’s $1,633 per year. It’s about 3.59%. »
That’s not enough for the union, and it doesn’t compensate for the meddling of the last decade, when the government has “always had its hand in our pockets”.
“I told you it’s not just about salaries. We wanted educators in all kindergarten classes. We wanted special educators not only to support students with special needs, but also to have the time to do so. »
The public sector union therefore ultimately considers that “the government does not seem to understand everything and (…) that the failure of the negotiations shows that the government does not recognize the value of the union members”.
Finally, Laura Walton said, “We’re not greedy. A dollar is a step in the right direction after a decade of stagnant wages. A dollar is a step in the right direction after our real dollar earnings fell more than 11%. This is a step in the right direction when so many of us live in poverty, have part-time jobs and are dependent on the Tafel.”
The government is disappointed
Following CUPE’s statements, the Minister for Education said: “We are disappointed that CUPE has submitted a notice to close classrooms again just days after talks resumed. Since negotiations resumed, we have made several enhanced offers that would have raised hundreds of millions of dollars across the sector, particularly for low-income workers. »
“CUPE rejected all our offers,” says Lecce.
The government is nevertheless at the negotiating table and ready to reach an agreement. This time the minister said he wanted to “invest more in low-income workers” in addition to keeping children in school.
The education minister also said that the threat of a strike was unfair to the children and unnecessary. “We’re really disappointed, especially when we know we made a better offer, it’s not fair to the children and the economy. »
The minister said he responded in good faith by withdrawing the bill with the exemption clause on November 14. At a meeting with the media in Queen’s Park, Stephen Lecce said he was confused.
“Why did we come up with this today? Still… frankly, this is unacceptable. »