TORONTO — The following is a statement from Laura Walton, educational assistant and president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions:
“This afternoon, Ontario’s education workers have their rights back. With the shadow of Bill 28 lifted, education workers can now focus on achieving a fairly negotiated collective agreement that meets the needs of students, families, and workers.
“This law should never have been adopted. Bill 28 imposed a four-year concessionary contract that would have pushed more of us into poverty while stripping us of our Charter rights, human rights, and any legal avenue to fight back.
“Students and parents need funding guarantees to ensure services are being provided in schools.
“School boards need the government to make a meaningful investment, too. School boards can’t hire or retain education workers. There is a crisis in our schools because no one wants to work for poverty level wages, be laid off for months every year, and be continuously disrespected and undervalued by the government.
“We are not giving up on our fight for student success and good jobs.”
In September and October 2021, prior to the steep rise in inflation this year, education workers responded to a CUPE survey about what a decade of government-imposed wage suppression has meant for them. Here are some personal experiences that frontline education workers shared:
“CUPE education workers work hard and are significantly under paid. A person working full time should be able to independently support their family. It is demoralizing having to rely on others or to have to get a second job. I am a single mother and want my children to know if you work hard you will do ok in life.”
“Currently wages are a big reason that casual employees can’t be found.”
“We put in way more hours than we are paid for because we care about the children in our school lives. It’s a slap in the face that we don’t get paid a decent wage, get paid over the holidays and then have to wait so long for EI to kick in….”
—Designated Early Childhood Educator
“Affordability has become nearly impossible to manage. Every expenditure has increased substantially (food, gas, clothing, insurance, utilities, and taxes) but our wages have stagnated. This is not sustainable.”
“Being a single person, I will never be able to afford to buy a house. Sometimes I have to dip into retirement savings to make it through the summer. I am constantly worried about whether I’ll have enough money saved for all 3 layoffs each school year. Will I actually be able to retire? If I have to leave a bill unpaid this month which one will it be? If my car breaks down unexpectedly will I be able to afford to fix it?”
“I am not able to replace my 10 year old vehicle that has 400,000km.”
“CUPE education workers often work in environments that are short-staffed or have the bare minimum staffing. As such, we all have large amounts of work and our pay should reflect that. Additionally, staffing and workload issues aside, our wages are simply not keeping up with inflation.”
“We work hard and don’t get the credit we deserve; we are running around trying to help multiple students in multiple classrooms with many different needs, we pay out of pocket for resources and work on building education resources on our own time.”
“I am a tradesperson making 15 to 20 dollars an hour less than a tradesperson in the private sector. We (RDSB) are currently looking for tradespeople to work for the board and they aren’t even getting applicants because the wages are too low. We need to compete with the higher wages (private sector) so we can have a full service maintenance department.”