Rally at Queen's Park on Saturday April 6, 2019. (Photo via CUPE Ontario Facebook)

Ontario education workers vote overwhelmingly for strike mandate

Ontario’s education workers and support staff represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have voted overwhelmingly to strike if necessary.

CUPE Ontario said around 55,000 CUPE education workers, including secretaries, education assistants, early childhood educators, custodians, maintenance workers, IT employees, and librarians, voted 93 per cent in favour of job action as the fight to protect services for students in Ontario schools continues. The results of the province-wide vote were announced late Monday afternoon following strike votes that took place from late August to September 15.

“Back-to-school in Ontario this year looks very different from last year. Families, students, and workers have all been hurt by the Ford government’s cuts to education,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), which bargains on behalf of education workers in Ontario.

The union blames crowded classrooms, fewer opportunities for learning and less support for students for the job action.

“Our plan for job action is about standing up for students and protecting the services that CUPE education workers deliver across the province,” said Walton.

CUPE education workers will be in a legal strike position beginning September 30, even as negotiations with the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) and the province continue. Talks are expected to continue Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We’ll continue to do everything we can to avoid a labour disruption,” said Walton.

The union said parents want more education assistants to support children with special needs, want enough custodians to keep schools clean and healthy, and don’t want long waitlists for vulnerable children to get the help they need from school boards’ psychologists, child and youth workers, or social workers.

“CUPE members have been reaching out for months to parents, families and supporters of Ontario’s system of public education. We know we share the same goals,” said Walton. “If it takes job action to defend high-quality, well-supported, and well-rounded public education, then CUPE education workers are ready.”