55,000 educators who are members CUPThe Ontario Council of School Boards Unions filed for conciliation on Friday.
Conciliation is a process in which the Ministry of Labor appoints a conciliation officer to meet with representatives of the Educators Central Bargaining Committee and the Board of Trustees and the Crown to help both parties reach a collective agreement.
“Since June 3rd, when we announced our next collective agreement with the Board of Trustee Unions and the Ontario government, my 55,000 co-workers have been fighting for decent wages, increased services for students and reinvestment in public education after a decade of government cuts that continue to result today instability said Laura Walton, Educational Assistant and President Ontario Council of School Boards Unions. “All summer long, Education Secretary Stephen Lecce has offered nothing but a disrespectful offer to reinforce the Ford government’s real per-pupil funding cuts, which have placed a significant and entirely avoidable burden on children, families and staff.”
The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives calculated that Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government cut education funding by $800 per student (adjusted for inflation) during its first term. With two million students in Ontario’s schools, that’s a $1.6 billion cut this year alone — money that should have been used to improve student support, increase staffing to provide services and raise educators’ salaries.
“Given the high inflation that everyone is experiencing, educators who are paid an average of just $39,000 a year cannot afford another pay cut. It is in the power of Stephen Lecce and Doug Ford to get their people to the table to accept our reasonable, necessary and affordable proposals for student success and good jobs, or at least make a respectful offer,” Walton said. “But with the Education Secretary wasting his time on fear-mongering and getting the math wrong, we’re seeking conciliation in the hope that a third party can help the government and school bosses refocus on a fair collective agreement.”
From 2012 to the end of 2021, salaries for Ontario educators increased by just 8.8%. Over the same period, using data from the Ontario government’s budget documents, headline inflation was 19.5%. This means that educators have already taken a 10.7% pay cut.
“In the last 85 days, negotiators from Stephen Lecce and Doug Ford have met with us only eight times. After four days, the students will not have a service guarantee,” Walton said about the pace of negotiations. “Five days from now, there will be nothing to stop educators from devaluing their wages again, and school boards will still struggle to recruit and retain staff because of low pay.”
In September and October 2021 CUP–OSBCU educators completed a survey about how low pay affects their lives. 51.4% of the respondents said that they have to do at least one extra job to make ends meet. 91% said they have faced at least one form of financial hardship due to their low wages. 60% are laid off every summer, most need unemployment insurance to survive (even at best, NO replaces only 55% of eligible income). 41% are late in paying their bills because their salary is not enough to meet their needs. 24% confirmed that he was struggling to pay for gas or public transportation (prior to the recent increase in gas prices). 27% of respondents said they need to reduce food consumption (even before the explosive inflation of 2022).
“Over the next 60 days, the Government and school board bosses have offered just seven days to negotiate with the staff who are the backbone of your children’s schools. It is unfortunate that the Ford government has yet to get serious about getting behind educators and getting it right. Nevertheless, educators are ready to speak up and make a good deal for students, families, Ontario communities and each other,” concluded Walton.
The workers’ pay proposal is a $3.25 an hour increase for a group that makes just $39,000 a year on average. Ford’s government bid was just 33¢ to 53¢ an hour—the equivalent of less than one tank of gas a month.