The current, very public battle between education workers and the Ontario government involves more than just the teachers. There are 55,000 education support workers province-wide who are also included in this battle. We are the caretakers and maintenance personnel, the secretaries, the early childhood educators, and the educational assistants employed at Ontario’s schools and school boards.
CUPE workers are vital to the functioning of our schools. We are the people who keep our schools clean. We keep the lines of communication open between the schools and our parents. We work directly with our most vulnerable students, providing the nurturing environment necessary for a child’s development.
We have been working without a contract since last August. On Friday, July 17th the Ministry of Education and our Trustees Associations finally exchanged contract proposals with our union’s provincial negotiating committee. They are proposing another three years of zero wage increases on top of the zeroes we have had since 2012. Every proposal in the document involves a concession or a claw-back.
I am afraid for the physical and mental well-being of my members and our students. For the past few years education support staff have been struggling with excessive workloads. With the cuts to education funding for this September, many of our workers have lost their full-time employment. Our work environment has become unsafe in many circumstances. Unfortunately, our working conditions are also the students’ learning conditions.
Our schools cannot afford another cut to education support staff. With the implementation of a full-day kindergarten program and the dramatic increase in cases of behavioral issues, autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities, the level of student needs has increased dramatically. Too many of our students are unable to get the time and attention they need. The learning environment has become chaotic in many of our schools.
CUPE Education Support Workers work hard every school day in very difficult work environments with very little appreciation and respect. Our members have a passion for working closely with our young people and ensuring they have a welcoming, safe, and nurturing learning environment. They deserve the appreciation and respect of our province’s parents, school boards, and government!
President, CUPE Local 4148