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The union representing public high school teachers said Thursday that the province is offering education workers in a proposed four-year deal not enough to sustain the cost of living.
Karen Littlewood, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, weighed in on a proposal put forward by the government earlier this week in a bargain with the Union of Public Employees of Canada.
“I think it’s unfair,” she said. “We at OSSTF, one-third of our members are education workers, and they fall into the same earning category.”
Ontario proposes 2% raise for low-paid education workers
The proposed deal, which would offer a two percent increase to education workers earning less than $40,000 a year and a 1.25 percent increase for all others, provided the first indication of what the progressive Conservative government was seeking in the deals. Also talks are going on. Four major teacher unions.
Littlewood said her union is still in the early stages of bargaining and has yet to receive an offer from the province, but she expects to see a similar offer.
Offering a hike of only 1.25 per cent, after a one per cent hike for several years, “is not respectable for the work that is being done,” she said.
“We are having difficulty in retaining workers, in hiring workers. You’re not going to get them that way,” Littlewood said.
“It’s similar to health care. It’s happening there faster than education, but we have to watch for all those warning signs.”
In a statement on Thursday, Education Minister Stephen Lessey said the government aims to provide the “stable, normal and more enjoyable school year that children in Ontario desperately need and deserve.”
“While we negotiate a four-year deal – a long deal that provides stability to families and workers, we will continue to prioritize … ensuring that students return to the classroom with tuition and mental health support ,” They said.
CUPE has asked the province for an annual increase of 11.7 percent — or $3.25 an hour — arguing that workers’ wages have been restricted and inflation has been high over the past decade.
A spokesperson for Lecce said earlier this week that CUPE is asking for five additional paid days before the start of the school year, 30 minutes of paid preparation time each day, and an increase in overtime pay by a multiple of 1.5 to 2.
If the terms of CUPE’s proposal are applied to all education contracts, it would cost taxpayers $21.8 billion over the proposed three years, Caitlin Clark said in a statement.
CUPE represents 55,000 workers, including early childhood teachers, school administration staff, bus drivers and patrons.
The previous contracts were subject to a law known as Bill 124, introduced by the government in 2019, which increases to one percent per year for three years for public sector workers.
Deals from the five major education associations expire on August 31, and the terms of the first deal in the bargaining round often set the standard for the rest.
Barb Dobrovolsky, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, said he believed the government was “trying to lower expectations” during the bargaining process.
Ontario education workers negotiating salary
At the same time, negotiations are still at an early stage and it would be premature to draw conclusions about what can be presented, especially when OECTA represents only teachers and not other education activists. He said salaries had not yet been discussed in the union’s talks with the province.
However, he stressed that teachers and staff across the province are feeling the pinch as the cost of living rises.
Meanwhile, Ontario’s Elementary Teachers Association said the government’s conduct during the bargain would be a “good litmus test” for its commitment to public education.
“We look forward to seeing a government that bargains in good faith and shows a commitment to public education,” ETFO President Karen Brown said in a speech Thursday at the union’s annual meeting.
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