Back to School? Maybe Not…….

Ontario’s 55,000 education workers in strike position September 8

Burlington Post – By Kathy Yanchus

In the shadow of the headline-grabbing provincial teacher negotiations, is a group of 55,000 Ontario school support staff that will be in a legal strike position Sept. 8.

Last week, the Canadian Union of Public Employees representing educational assistants, administrative staff, custodians, speech pathologists and library technicians, among others, requested a no board report. The no board report was requested after its demand for conciliation failed to produce sufficient bargaining dates with the province and the council of trustees association.

So far, the group has had three negotiating days, whereas teachers have had more than 20 days, said Terri Preston, chair of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Coordinating Committee, the umbrella group for school support workers in the public, Catholic and French school systems.

“There’s no evidence that bargaining for education workers is being taken seriously,” said Preston.

“We feel like the forgotten partners in education but schools would not be able to be open without CUPE education workers,” said Tracey Newman, president of CUPE local 5200, which represents approximately 475 Halton Catholic District School Board educational assistants and early childhood educators. “Our members deserve respect for the challenging jobs they do with kindness and dedication every day.”

More negotiating dates have been set up for this week and next in an effort to reach a settlement before the start of the school year, added Newman.

Issues include money, as support workers earn $38,000 a year on average, but it is not the main issue, said Newman.

Workplace violence for EAs as well as job security are also on the table, Newman added.

CUPE provincial leaders will be meeting at the end of August to determine whether or not they will be going out on strike or conducting a work-to-rule campaign, said Lisa Balanowski, president of Local 3166, which represents HCDSB’s clerical, library technical and IT support staff.