Education Support Workers give CUPE strong strike mandate

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

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents education support workers in Ontario, has the mandate to strike from 96.5 per cent of its members.

The union released the results of a provincewide vote  Monday morning.

About 82 per cent of CUPE’s 55,000 members cast a ballot in the vote, which started on September 23 and wrapped up on Sunday.

CUPE represents school office staff, custodians, early childhood educators and educational assistants, the lowest paid education workers in Ontario. On average, they make $39,000 annually, 70 per cent are women, and more than half work an extra job to make ends meet.

The union asked for an 11.7 per cent wage increase, about $3.25 more an hour. The province offered a two per cent increase for those who make more than $40,000 an hour and 1.25 per cent more for all other members.

CUPE argues its members have already taken an 11 per cent pay cut between 2012 and last year and said a report published by the Financial Accountability Office indicated they could lose another 11.3 per cent.

“My coworkers and I voted ‘yes’ because we will not accept another pay cut,” said Laura Walton, an educational assistant and president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions. “Everyone knows the Ford government can do so much better for students and workers.”

The union also demands more frontline workers in Ontario schools, saying it would ensure all students get the support they need in the classroom.

Bargaining between CUPE and the provincial government resumes on Thursday, October 17, and Friday, October 18.

In 2019, the government and the union reached a deal at the eleventh hour to avoid a strike, but other teachers’ unions held a series of rotating walkouts until they reached tentative agreements in the spring of 2020.

The five largest teachers’ unions are still in contract talks with the province after their contracts expired at the end of August.