it-takes-a-whole-school-page-001Here are the facts folks:

• Ontario ranks 36th of the 61 Canadian and American jurisdictions (provinces, states, and Washington DC) in terms of per-student funding.

• Approximately 44,000 students are on waiting lists for IPRC meetings, or for special needs services (People for Education)

• Not all mandated services are fully funded

• The clear majority of boards say they spend more on special education than they receive from the Ministry. (P4E)

Our responsibility to fight for a better Canada

Oct 20, 2016


Far too many Canadians are being conditioned to expect less and less from their employers. And yet as workers, we are expected to work harder for lower wages.

The most troubling aspect of this attitude is seen when workers demand better. They are called ‘greedy’, or told they should be thankful just to have a job.

Workers continue to face a growing list of challenges that make their work increasingly more precarious. These challenges include almost non-existent job security, fewer and inferior benefits, less control over working conditions, and employers demanding ‘flexibility’ that really means more casual, part-time and term positions.

These are the hallmarks of precarious work, the symptoms of the outright attack on workers.

Our research shows as much as a third of all jobs in Canada have one or more characteristics of precarious work.

And if you are a woman, or under 35 years old, or a part of an equity-seeking group, the odds that your work is precarious are even higher.

Women are more likely to work less than 30 hours per week with no benefits.

Young workers, or those below 35 years of age, are less likely to have workplace pensions, or sick leave.

Racialized workers, non-citizens, those whose first language is other than English or French, are far more likely to be precariously employed.

This is not the way to build a better Canada.

As precarious work becomes more and more common, the gap between the richest Canadians and the rest of us grows.

As we’ve seen over the past 40 years, that gap has grown and grown. Under constant assault from corporations and employers, wages for working people have now been stagnant for decades, while governments in Canada and around the world descend into a state of permanent austerity.

As Canada’s largest union, we have a responsibility to take a stand against the spread of precarious work – for our members, our communities and all Canadians.

Our campaigns and political action work are an important part of this fight, but we must never lose sight of the most powerful tool we have. We must organize these workers, allowing them the single best way to fight precarity and inequality in the workplace – a union.

Mark Hancock
National President


Premier and Ministers of Finance and Energy face legal action over sale of Hydro One

Sep 14, 2016

TORONTO, ON – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ministers of Finance and Energy now face legal troubles over the privatization of Hydro One. The Premier along with Minister Charles Sousa and Minister Glenn Thibeault have been served the mandatory 60-day notice of intent to file a suit against them for misfeasance while in public office.

Purple sunset with hydro towers

“Our goal with this lawsuit is to protect the people of Ontario and Hydro One ratepayers, to stop any further sale of shares in Hydro One and keep the majority of shares in public hands,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “The Premier and her Ministers had no political mandate to pursue the sell-off, experts made it clear the sale would be bad for Ontario and still they chose to proceed with privatization. Why?”

Prior to the sale of shares, internal government documents showed the vast majority of Ontarians were opposed to the privatization of Hydro One. Among the expert advice warning the Premier against the sale was the Province’s own financial accountability officer who stated: “In the years following the sale of 60 per cent of Hydro One, the province’s budget balance would be worse than it would have been without the sale. The province’s net debt would initially be reduced, but will eventually be higher than it would have been without the sale.”

It has now been repeatedly reported that the Premier and her government Ministers have held exclusive fundraising events to raise money for the Ontario Liberal Party with ticket costs running up to $10,000 each. A recent Globe and Mail investigation uncovered that invitations to, and attendance at these exclusive events included the banks that have made nearly $60 million from the privatization of Hydro One so far.

“As with all suits of this nature we are required to serve notice 60-days in advance of filing with the court,” said Darrell Brown, Partner at Goldblatt Partners and one of the legal counsel working on the case. “We cannot get into the specifics of the case until it is filed, the claim will be accessible to the public when we file it in November.”

“We do not undertake this lawsuit lightly, but our government has chosen to blatantly ignore the voices of the people and we’ve been left with little choice,” said Hahn speaking at a press conference at Queen’s Park. “Further sales of Hydro One shares must be stopped before the people of Ontario lose majority control over our electricity system. We anticipate others may want to sign on to the suit before we file in November.”

CUPE is Ontario’s community union, with more than 260,000 members providing quality public services we all rely on, in every part of the province, every day. CUPE Ontario members are proud to work in social services, health care, municipalities, school boards, universities and airlines.

For more information contact:

Sarah Jordison
CUPE Communications

Ontario parents worry about special education support

Changes to autism services mean an influx of kids needing added help in the classroom.

High school student Eric Segal, who has autism, is shown with his service dog Azra. His mother Sharon Gabison, says parents have to fight hard for kids with special needs to get what they need in school.
High school student Eric Segal, who has autism, is shown with his service dog Azra. His mother Sharon Gabison, says parents have to fight hard for kids with special needs to get what they need in school.  (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)  

Special education — and particularly autism supports — are expected to be front and centre for schools and parents as Ontario students head back to their classrooms this week.

“The pressure is definitely building, because the needs are there and the numbers (of special needs students) are higher,” says Marg Spoelstra, executive director of the research and advocacy group Autism Ontario.

Recent changes to the province’s autism services for children will result in an influx of students coming to school who need additional supports, she added.

But there’s a long way to go before those Ontario students get the help they are entitled to, whether it’s one-on-one educational assistants or more teachers trained to use the principles of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) that are effective for many children on the autism spectrum and others.

Under the province’s revamped autism program, children 5 and over are no longer eligible to join wait lists for intensive autism treatment covered by the province. They can apply for the new and less intensive ABA program, but that doesn’t launch until next year.

The back-to-school ritual gets nerves jangling in many households. But for parents like Sharon Gabison of Maple, the anxiety is even higher as she worries about what the transition will be like for her son Eric, 19, who has autism.

“What’s going to happen to him at school?” she says she wonders each September. “Is he going to be looked after? Is his teacher going to understand him and what he needs? Is someone going to make sure he eats his lunch?”

Eric loves school and doesn’t have behavioural issues. But habits such as the way he talks to himself to soothe his anxiety can be disruptive, and that’s one of the many occasions he needs extra support.

Like many parents, Gabison has spent years fighting to get her son the accommodations that are his legal right so that he can learn to his potential. She says parents like her who are vocal advocates are too often labelled “troublemakers” by schools.

“The biggest issue right now is our kids aren’t receiving the education they are entitled to be receiving,” says Gabison, a physical therapist and executive with the parent advocacy group the Ontario Autism Coalition.

Both Autism Ontario’s Marg Spoelstra and Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education, say concern about the shortage of special ed services is the primary reason parents contact their advocacy organizations.

In a 2014 People for Education report, half of Ontario’s elementary school principals said they have told students with special needs to stay home from school for all or part of the day, primarily because they don’t have enough special ed staff. It found an average of 37 students with special needs for every special ed teacher.

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter is pictured inside her office in the Mowat Block on Bay Street.
Education Minister Mitzie Hunter is pictured inside her office in the Mowat Block on Bay Street.  (NAKITA KRUCKER)  

Ontario’s education minister has vowed that improving the special ed system is a priority for the new school year.

“I’m working with my team to look at what is the strategy, how are we meeting the needs, what are those needs that we must respond to,” Mitzie Hunter told the Star in an interview this summer following her appointment to the portfolio in June. “We have to do this in discussion with our education partners.”

The province will spend $2.76 billion on special education this year, according to the ministry, but it is up to school boards to allocate those funds to schools and programs. Many advocates argue it would be more effective to allocate specific funds to each child based on their needs.

“It is a reality that every board in the province is probably spending well outside and beyond their special education funding,” said Tony Pontes, director of education for the Peel District School Board.

That situation “speaks to the overall question of whether or not special education funding, period, is sufficient given the needs in our schools.”

The number of Ontario students with autism jumped to almost 19,000 students in 2013-14 from fewer than 5,000 in 2002-03, according to Ministry of Education statistics. And that’s only part of the special needs population.

The Durham District School Board is so stretched that last year Trustee Donna Edwards launched its “One in Four: Fund the Need” drive on behalf of the one-quarter of its student population that need special ed support.

A groundbreaking report written by children and youth with special needs last spring found many youth felt shut out by educators who had low expectations of them. A common complaint was that they didn’t get the critical supports they needed to learn and succeed, said the report, led by Ontario Children’s Advocate Irwin Elman.

Change is the biggest challenge for many children with autism and other special needs. So the Ontario Autism Coalition will be pushing for better services to provide a “seamless transition” as children move from autism treatment into public schools, says president Bruce McIntosh, who has two teens on the spectrum.

This spring the group fought the province over a decision to remove kids 5 and older from wait lists and out of intensive treatment, leaving them without services they’d been promised. That campaign, dubbed #autismdoesntendat5, prompted the government to back down.

Now, the group has launched its next phase: #autismdoesntendatschool.

Giving students with special needs the support they need to learn “makes the classroom better for everyone,” says McIntosh, because it means less disruption and a more productive environment.

This Labour Day there is one simple message: It’s time working people did better

Labour Day: Better jobs for a better Canada

Here is the message from our National Officers for Labour Day

While we gather this long weekend for a well-deserved break with family, friends and neighbours, let us also mark this Labour Day by committing to fight the growth of precarious work in our workplaces, stand against inequality in our communities, and help empower every Canadian worker by organizing them into a union.

Canadians are being conditioned to expect less and less from their employers. Dead-end jobs, with low wages and no benefits, are becoming the norm for far too many workers.

Mark Hancock speaks through megaphone at rally

Little to no job security; fewer and inferior benefits; less control over working conditions; employers demanding ‘flexibility’ that really means more casual, part-time and term positions.

While many of us will be getting a well deserved break this Labour Day long-weekend, many more will be faced with the uncertainty, and most likely the poverty, of having to scratch out a living in a precarious job.

Labour Day has long been a time for Canadian unions to acknowledge and celebrate our many accomplishments for our members and all workers. But it also must be a time for us to take a look at the new reality.

Our research shows as much as a third of all jobs in Canada can be considered precarious work.

And if you are a woman, or under 35 years old, or a part of an equity-seeking group, the odds your work is precarious is even higher.

Charles Fleury supports striking workers

Women are more likely to work less than 30 hours per week with no benefits.

Young workers, or those below 35 years of age, are less likely to have workplace pensions, or sick leave.

Racialized workers are far more likely to be precariously employed.

As Canada’s largest union, we have a responsibility to take a stand against this spread of precarious work.

This is why CUPE is working with other Canadians to pressure governments to do more for workers. We are working for better and stronger laws to protect workers from hazards and dangers in the workplace, and harsher penalties for employers who neglect the safety of their workers. We have joined campaigns across Canada to raise minimum wages and fight for living wages. We are continuing our efforts in the fight for pay equity and fair wages for everyone.

These campaigns and political action work are important parts of the work we do as a union, but organizing is the most powerful tool we have to better the lives of Canadian workers.  We must organize workers, allowing them the single best way to fight precarity and inequality in the workplace – a union.

We hope you have a safe and relaxing Labour Day long-weekend celebrating all we have accomplished for workers, and come back refreshed and refocused ready to help every worker build a better life and a better Canada.

In Solidarity,

Mark Hancock
National President

Charles Fleury
National Secretary-Treasurer


AUGUST 6, 2016

Every so often I find myself in a conversation with someone who wonders if unions are still needed in Canada today.

Today we have laws to protect workers, they’ll say. There’s no more child labour; we get paid extra for overtime; employers can’t discriminate based on race, sex or anything else; employees are required to get breaks; etc. Why bother paying dues to a union?

A report last week from a panel that examined Ontario’s labour laws shows exactly why.

According to the report, 75 to 77 per cent of inspections of work sites by the Ontario Ministry of Labour found violations of the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act.

How can this be?

One reason is that there’s little incentive for employers to follow all labour laws. In Ontario, for example, there are nowhere near enough enforcement officers to inspect all the workplaces in the province, and fines for non-compliance aren’t enough to deter violations.

But more importantly, when an employee suspects their boss is breaking the law, it’s often hard to do anything about it.

If it hasn’t already happened to you, picture it: you work a low-wage job, which you depend on to make rent. Your boss sometimes asks you to stay after your shift, or changes your shift at the last minute. You’re encouraged not to take vacation. You’re asked to do work that’s dangerous, and that you haven’t been trained for.

All these are simple, and common, labour law violations. But do you go to the trouble of making a complaint to the authorities? Will your boss suspect you’re the one who complained? Will you be fired, supposedly for some other reason? If that happens, can you hire a lawyer to plead your case? How hard will it be to find another job?

In theory, labour laws protect workers from abuses. In practice, it’s hard to get wrongs righted if you don’t have a union.

Unionized workers can call their union office if they suspect something’s not right in their workplace, and officials should be able to tell you what recourse you might have. If you’re disciplined, fired, or denied a promotion, the union can determine whether laws and contracts have been respected.

There’s also a “chill effect” on employers when a workplace is unionized – it’s less likely that an employer will push the boundaries of legality if they know a union is watching.

To be fair, things also don’t always work the way they’re supposed to. Unions aren’t always strong or effective enough to counter every abuse in the workplace. Sometimes workers feel poorly served by their union, and sometimes a collective agreement doesn’t protect a worker the way they would like. Resolving an issue through a formal grievance process can sometimes take years.

Without a union, though, it’s much less likely to be resolved at all.

This article was copied from the ‘no need to raise your hand’ Labour blog.


Why is nobody talking about this? Where are the public protests, the letters to our MPP and our local news media? Why aren’t we standing up for our community?

The Wynne government is quietly privatizing one of the major employers in Sault Ste. Marie; Ontario Lottery & Gaming, and we are saying and doing nothing. What are we waiting for?

This has got to be one of the best kept secrets in Provincial politics. OLG, just like hydro, consistently turns a profit, (a portion of which goes into our city coffers), and provides approximately 600 well-paying jobs to the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie. Listen people: the job losses have already begun!

I am afraid for the future of our city. Tenaris, Essar, City Daycare, OLG – how much more can we take? How much longer are the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie going to sit quietly by as our city takes it’s last breathe?

It is time for action! It is time for all of us to speak up and tell the Wynne government NO! Stop the privatization of public assets! The city of Sault Ste. Marie cannot survive any more job loss!

In Solidarity,

Vicky Evans,

President, CUPE Local 4148

CUPE welcomes CPP expansion deal

Jun 21, 2016

Canada’s largest union is welcoming an agreement by the federal, provincial and territorial governments for a modest expansion of the Canada Pension Plan. While significantly less than the proposed doubling of benefits advocated for by the Canadian labour movement, the Canadian Union of Public Employees is pleased the deal will mean a universal expansion to the CPP that will help all workers.

“I appreciate that the Prime Minister, Premiers and Canada’s Finance Ministers have heard the concerns of Canadian workers worried about their retirements, and have finally taken action to help the over 11 million Canadians without a workplace pension,” said Mark Hancock, national president ofCUPE.

CUPE and other Canadian unions have supported an expanded CPP since its inception 50 years ago.CUPE has long advocated for an expanded CPP as the most effective, efficient and affordable way to ensure as many Canadians as possible can retire out of poverty.

“I want to thank every CUPE member, activist and leader who has worked so hard on behalf of all Canadian workers to make CPP reform possible,” said Hancock. “Thanks to your advocacy, millions of Canadians will be able to retire with dignity.”

Charles Fleury, national secretary-treasurer of CUPE, added his thanks to CUPE members for their efforts to improve Canada’s public pension system. “The urgent need to improve the CPP would not have been on the country’s agenda if our members and working people had not worked together. CUPE will continue campaigning and advocating for improved retirement income security for all Canadian workers.”

CUPE Ontario statement of solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Orlando, Florida