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Education union calling for strong strike mandate after 'disappointing' talks with province

At least one Ontario education union is calling for a strike vote among its workers across the province after what it termed two days of disappointing talks with provincial negotiators.
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At least one Ontario education union is calling for a strike vote among its workers across the province after what it termed two days of disappointing talks with provincial negotiators.

The CUPE-Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) – which represents 55,000 education workers in the public, Catholic, English, and French school systems – said very little to no progress was made after almost 16 hours of meetings with negotiators over the past two days.

“It was hours of waiting for the employer to respond with next to nothing,” read an update from the union on Thursday.

“Your central bargaining committee tried to kickstart discussion on several issues, through the conciliation officer, that focused on priorities frontline education workers, parents, and students expect to see in your next collective agreement,” the bargaining committee said. “In the end, the employer and government’s response was to say ‘no’ and revert to their initial insulting offer of August 15.”

CUPE-OSBCU has asked for annual wage increases of $3.25 per hour — or 11.7 per cent – to help address the increase in inflation as well as minimum staffing requirements, a designated Early Childhood Educator for every kindergarten class, and $100 million to create between 1,500 and 1,700 new jobs.

The Ford government has offered to give education workers who make less than $40,000 raises of two per cent a year, and 1.25 per cent for everyone else in a proposed four-year deal.

The OSBCU is now calling on its members for a “real display of worker power” when a strike vote begins Friday which could put them in a legal strike position come October.

“My coworkers and I have suffered 10 years of wage cuts and now we’re facing high inflation. The status quo is not acceptable,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s OSBCU. “Tiny improvements won’t pay the bills and won’t keep workers in schools or recruit new ones.”

The current deals with all five of Ontario’s major education unions expired on Aug. 31.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), which represents approximately 83,000 members, indicated last month that any interruptions would likely come much later in the school year while the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has ruled out strike action for the time being.

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