THEY MADE FORD BLINK. Fifty-five thousand education support workers, led by their union, CUPE, forced the Doug Ford government to make them an offer Ford said he never would.
Faced with a midnight strike deadline on October 6, the union gave tentative approval to the government offer that includes:
- Pay increase: CUPE members get a one per cent increase per year for three years. They are still among the lowest paid public service workers in Ontario with an average salary of just $38,000 a year.
- Job security: The current number of employees (55,000) will remain for the course of the contract—unless there are major economic changes, a dramatic drop in student population, or major changes in funding.
- Job protection: The government will spend up to $20 million each year for three years to create 300 full-time equivalent CUPE jobs across the province.
- Local priorities fund: $58.3 million per year for 3 years, which will help restore more than 1,000 CUPE jobs
- Sick leave untouched: Status quo preserved at 11 sick days at 100 per cent pay, 120 short-term leave days at 90 per cent pay.
The agreement is in the last stages of ratification by the CUPE members it covers.
Teachers up next
The teachers’ unions are on the hot seat next and many of them are already holding strike votes in preparation for the next showdown. This time there will be much more money on the line. The gap between the two sides is estimated to be almost a billion dollars, with most of that money pegged to staffing at the secondary school level.
The Cons want to increase class sizes and cut 10,000 teaching jobs over the next four years. The unions oppose these cuts and have vowed to fight them at the bargaining table and on the streets.
So, the stage has been set for a battle for the future of education in Ontario. Who will blink this time?
CUPE may not have gotten everything they wanted in bargaining, but the power of their members and the threat of a strike brought them some more jobs and a chance to fight another day. It’s hard to imagine that the teachers and their unions will be as successful without actually walking out of school.
That’s where we come in. Dud Ford and his lackies will start saying that teachers are lazy and overpaid and that they are the problem. It will be up to other unions, parents and the general public to answer that with strong public statements and support for teachers and our public education system. Let’s make them blink again.
Stand Up. Fight Back. Don’t Give Up.
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