Refusal by the Ontario Minister of Education and the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) to honour a key part of the deal they negotiated with CUPE is robbing students of much-needed services and keeping hundreds of workers from returning to the jobs they love.
CUPE, which represents 55,000 education workers in Ontario, also pointed out that the government’s actions put the lie to the Minister’s claim that his government has made significant investments in the province’s education system.
At issue is the return of lost jobs and services, which the union identified as a priority during its negotiations for a central agreement. CUPE negotiated $78 million in funding in each of the next three years to restore services and jobs lost under the Ford government’s cuts to education. Yet across the province, CUPE locals are reporting that school boards, with the approval of the Ministry of Education, are refusing to call back workers and bring back services.
“We would never have agreed to a central deal if we hadn’t been able to negotiate these funds,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), which led central bargaining. “We are devastated and furious that the money has not flowed to benefit students and workers.”
The restoration of the Local Priorities Fund (LPF, $58 million a year) and the Education Workers Protection Fund ($20 million a year) also provided an opportunity for other unions to negotiate to restore their portion of the LPF funding and protect the services their members provide.
“The Minister of Education is always keen to hold up the CUPE central agreement as a model for the teachers’ unions to follow,” said Walton. “But our experience shows that neither the province nor the school’s boards can be trusted to do the right thing by students and workers. It is the rankest hypocrisy for the Minister to claim otherwise.”
In all, 1,300 CUPE jobs were to return to Ontario schools to provide services to students under the agreed funding. OSBCU, CUPE and local unions across the province are working to put together a complete picture of the school boards that have refused to replace services, as well as those that say they will not recall workers until local bargaining is completed.
“These tactics by the Ford Conservatives, CTA and school boards fly in the face of the needs of students, the calls of communities, and the demands of CUPE members to reverse the cuts impacting services in schools,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario.
“We call on Minister Lecce to immediately enact the spirit and intent of our central agreement and ensure that Ontario school boards are restoring supports in the best interests of students, frontline workers, and our communities.”