A strike deadline has been set for 5 p.m. today
On Nov. 16, Laura Walton, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ (CUPE) Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU), announced at a press conference that education workers were prepared to resume striking on Monday.
The five-day strike notice filed by CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions came following the Ontario Progressive Conservatives’ promise to repeal the Keeping Students in Class Act (Bill 28), on Nov. 7. This came after custodians, librarians, and other education workers walked off the job, and multiple school boards across the province shifted to online learning on Nov. 4.
The Act — drafted in response to labour disputes with school board employees represented by CUPE — levied a four-year contract, which drew controversy for requiring “the termination of any strike or lock-out” and operating “notwithstanding sections 2, 7, and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” to bypass workers’ rights to collective bargaining protected by the Human Rights Code.
“The bill would have imposed a regressive contract and stripped 55,000 CUPE education workers in Ontario of fundamental Charter rights,” wrote CUPE in a statement following the repeal of Bill 28.
Though they did not comment on the strike or Bill 28, the Ottawa Catholic School Board, workplace to 1,300 permanent and 700 casual CUPE members, confirmed in an email to the Fulcrum that all in-person students were welcomed back to school on Nov. 8.
However, as of Nov. 16, students and parents have been informed of the possibility that they’ll be back online come Nov. 21.
The average salary of education workers in Ontario is $39,000
Over the last ten years, education workers’ wages have increased by only 8.8 per cent. Meanwhile, the rate of inflation has been at least 19 per cent. According to a survey conducted by CUPE in September and October 2021, 51.4 per cent of education workers have either a second or third job, and 91 per cent have experienced financial difficulties as a result of their wages.
In addition, education workers were found to be the lowest-paid unionized employees in Ontario, further exacerbating the gender pay gap, as women make up more than 70 per cent of CUPE’s membership.
Here in Ottawa, members of CUPE 503 have expressed their continued support for their colleagues working in Ontario schools, and organized solidarity protests across the city.
Click here to learn more about education workers in Ontario.