Where Things Stand at Year-End

On December 11, the Ontario Council of Education Workers (OCEW) announced it had reached a tentative agreement that will be put to ratification in the coming weeks.

OCEW represents education workers in seven unions: the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU); the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Ontario and its locals 103, 429, 454, 527 and 529; the Educational Resource Facilitators of Peel; the Essex and Kent Counties Skilled Trades Council; the Labourers International Union of North America, Local 837; the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council; and Unifor locals 229, 302 and 2458. Its members work in various job classes in Ontario school boards.

Although details of the tentative agreement have not been made public, the government stated it had offered to other education workers' unions the same terms ratified by a majority of members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario School Board Council of Unions (CUPE-OSBCU). These include: a $1 per hour wage increase each year for four years and a one per cent increase to the benefits plan per year, with a four per cent increase in the fourth year.

Education workers represented by CUPE-OSBCU ratified their tentative agreement on December 4, with a vote of 73 per cent in favour, in which 41,559 of the 55,000 members participated (76 per cent of the total membership).

At the press conference announcing the results, CUPE-OSBCU President Laura Walton expressed pride in her members for engaging themselves and speaking up about the conditions in the schools, which has allowed everyone to see the reality that education workers face. She emphasized that what is most significant is the participation in the ratification vote, the highest she has seen in her time as President.

In speaking about what the public can now see as a result of the fight to get to the agreement, she said: "I know education workers, like child care workers, nurses, midwives and other health care workers are worth more than we are paid. This is especially true because we do the work that is the foundation for all the profits that are made by Bay Street financiers, telecom oligarchs and grocery store barons. I know that young people in this province deserve the world's best education system. One that meets their needs and provides services to every single student, no matter their challenges, so they can grow and thrive together, in the same schools as their peers." She expressed that the fight for public education is an ongoing fight and one that CUPE-OSBCU will continue, alongside parents and other workers.

Negotiations with other teachers' and education workers' unions, including l'Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), are ongoing. As the negotiations are not being made public there are very few details known about how they are progressing, if at all.

Renewal Update has received reports that union negotiators indicate that things are moving very slowly and that the government is targeting pay and benefits of teachers and education workers as a way to put them on the defensive. How to address this as well as the secrecy with which negotiations are taking place are matters of concern for teachers and education workers at this time.

(Photo: N. Kaplan-Myrth)

This article was published in
Number 9 - December 23, 2022

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