Impacts of Cuts on Education Workers Wages
CUPE Ontario’s education division, the Ontario School Board Council of Unions issued a significant report in March of 2022 outlining the negative effects on its members and the education system as a whole of a decade of cuts to education. “Legislative restrictions on free collective bargaining like Bill 115 (under the previous Liberal government) that froze wages for two years, and Bill 124 (under the current Conservative government) that limited increases to 1% per year for three years” have resulted in the fact that education workers’ wages have increased by only 8.8% (compounded) from 2012 to 2022. Over that same period of time inflation in Ontario has been 19%. The report indicates that in real terms education workers have faced a 10.2% wage cut over ten years.
Their report notes that according to their own surveys 51.4% of school board workers have had to take at least one additional job to make ends meet. The members most in need of additional jobs are sole income earners for their households, 64.5% of whom work at least one extra job (approximately one third of CUPE education workers are the sole income earner in their household). The report further notes that this is an issue of gender equality as education workers are predominantly women. Women in the education sector are more likely to have their annual income limited by having only 10 months of employment. (They are laid off for summers, and often during December and March breaks as well).
“In a very real sense, the attack on education workers’ wages has exacerbated the overall gender wage gap and has undermined any ostensible attempts to address the persistent gender wage gap across society as a whole. No strategy for ending gender wage inequality can ignore compensation for public sector employment, especially in sectors that are dominated by women such as education. This would include addressing wage rates, hours of work per week, and the limitations on the work year for this socially necessary, but sadly undervalued, work,” the report notes.
The loss of wages over years has also led to serious recruitment and retention problems for school boards which were exacerbated during the pandemic.
The report concludes: “Education workers in Ontario deserve a raise. Schools cannot work without the contributions they make on a daily basis yet their wages over the past 10 years have not kept up with inflation. Wages have fallen behind economic growth. School board workers’ wages have also trailed behind negotiated settlements in all other unionized sectors in the province (private sector, municipalities, federally regulated workplaces, and the rest of the Ontario broader public sector). The most significant reason for this is misguided and punitive legislation that forced wage restraint on some of the lowest paid workers in schools. This is not sustainable. It has caused real economic and personal hardships for education workers. It has exacerbated the overall gender wage gap in Ontario and has contributed to growing economic inequality. School boards themselves have also faced significant problems with recruitment and retention related to wages. In the 2021 Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review the Minister of Finance said ‘… for too long, the workers of our province have been taken for granted… Take-home pay for many workers has not kept up with rising costs’ (emphasis added). He further stated ‘During the pandemic, the workers of Ontario had our back. And our government has theirs. We want Ontario workers in a race to the top, not a race to the bottom’ If the Minister is being honest, then it’s time to put that sentiment into action and increase wages for Ontario’s education workers.”
For a full copy of the report click here