• Fri. Aug 5th, 2022

Negotiations begin for teacher and support staff unions

ByJulie J. Helfer

Jul 13, 2022

With their contracts just under two months away, Ontario’s teachers and support staff unions are preparing to meet with the province and school boards to begin the bargaining process.

Both parties are hopeful that productive progress can be made before the start of the school year.

Laura Walton, president of the Council of School Board Unions at the Canadian Union of Ontario Public Employees, said unions have been ready to go since they served notice to bargain last month.

“We hear a lot about stability from the prime minister and the minister (of education) and, let’s be clear, we also want stability. That’s why we fight for services,” Walton said. “We see summer as a really good way to get in and work on it before school starts.”

Negotiations will begin with CUPE, which represents approximately 55,000 education workers in Ontario, on July 18, the union representing teachers in French-language school boards on July 19, the Fédération des enseignementes et des Ontario will follow on July 20 and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association on July 21.

Walton said there were two pressing issues for education workers they wanted to address: an “increase in real wages” and safe services in schools.

The union represents a diverse group of workers that includes teacher’s aides, janitors, janitors, office workers and early childhood educators. Walton said the average salary was around $39,000 a year.

“The majority of them work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet, so basically subsidizing the work they do in schools with alternate work so they can continue to work in schools,” he said. she declared.

“Throughout the pandemic, and you see that even this month inflation is 7%, it’s disproportionately impacting low-wage earners…every day they’re losing money because of multiple years of wage legislation.”

The current collective agreement offers no job security after Aug. 30, meaning councils can ‘cut any position they want’, Walton said, adding it could lead to a reduction in services. that students and families “really, really rely on”.

In accordance with the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, issues relating to salaries, benefits, sick leave and vacation are negotiated at the central table. Other issues such as seniority, timetable (administrative matters) are discussed at the local level, with the individual school boards.

CUPE Local 4156 president Keith Levere said wages top the list for members in Niagara. Non-union members of the District School Board of Niagara received a raise of $4 to $9 an hour, but Levere said union members “didn’t receive anything other than the 1% given by the Bill 124”.

Levere said the union also wants all full-time workers to continue working. The merger of schools means that the number of support workers employed decreases, while the number of pupils – and, therefore, the workload – increases.

“We want the employer to keep the number of our secretaries, IT workers, library workers and janitors at a higher level so that the needs of the student come first,” Levere said.

In a statement, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province’s priority is to ensure students are back in the classroom, with “the full school experience, which is essential to their health. mental and physical”.

He said the department was focused on “finding an agreement that keeps students in the classroom without any interruptions, ensuring students can catch up on their studies and graduate with the skills they need for jobs in the workplace.” ‘coming”.

Karen Littlewood, president of the secondary teachers’ union, which has 60,000 members, said the needs of her teachers and education workers were the same as three years ago. Members want an increase in the cost of living because the 1% cap built into Bill 124 “does not keep up with all cost increases”.

Littlewood said the secondary teachers’ union was also struggling to fill staffing shortages, partly because people are sick, but also because casual workers “have moved on because they don’t see or do not feel the respect they should have in education. .”

“I know the prime minister said he loves teachers and it will definitely be more than one per cent, but that’s all we know at the moment,” Littlewood said. “As we head into negotiations, we don’t really know what the offer is going to be across the table.”

Last week, unions were told by the Department of Education that the province could ask for a four-year contract rather than the usual three-year term. Walton said it could change the landscape of the negotiation process.

“It’s very interesting that this is an almost unilateral change…we have to ask ourselves why this is happening,” she said, adding that the four-year term ensures that no negotiation takes place. will take place before the next provincial election.

“I hope the ministry understands that by making this a four-year term, we need to make sure that we are able to have what people will need over the next four years.”