OSBCU Central Bargaining Committee Explains Unacceptable Government Offer

OSBCU Central Bargaining Committee Explains Unacceptable Government Offer

We are waiting for a response from the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) and the Ford government and remain at the table willing and ready, as we have been for the last five months, to negotiate a collective agreement that responds to the needs of students, parents, and workers.

The following explains what their offer was and how bad it was for the lowest-paid education workers.

Sunday, the Ontario School Board Council of Unions’ central bargaining committee was presented with a final pass from the Ministry of Education. We were told that if we did not accept this offer, the Conservative government would introduce legislation and impose it.

Since then, we’ve seen a number of misconceptions and fallacies about the government’s offer. The central bargaining committee is writing this statement to correct those errors.

Stephen Lecce claims that the government’s latest offer is generous and meets the needs of workers. This is not true. While the wage increase numbers may look like an improvement over their previous offer, the way they structured the offer – that they intend to impose – would push more workers into poverty.

Government Claim #1: Many workers who earn less than $43,000 will receive 2.5%.

Fact: An educational assistant at Toronto Catholic District School Board is paid $26.21 an hour. They work 32.5 hours a week for 43 weeks a year and only earn $36,628 annually. They would only get a 1.5% increase, or an additional 39¢ an hour.

The majority of workers would not get 2.5% – because the language in the government’s proposal is not based on individual earnings but rather pay scale or hourly wage rate, leaving many workers who earn less than $43,000 (or $25.95 per hour) receiving only 1.5%.

Here are some other examples:

An early childhood educator at Limestone District School Board earns $27.74 an hour. They work 30 hours a week for 43 weeks of the year and end up earning just $35,785 annually. They too would only receive a 1.5% increase, or 42¢ an hour more.

A personal support worker at Waterloo Catholic District School Board earns $25.97 an hour – just two cents over the cutoff salary in the government’s offer. They work 32.5 hours a week for 43 weeks of the year and are laid off for the rest of the time. They make just $36,293 a year – well below the government’s talking point of $43,000 – but they will only receive 1.5 per cent from the government’s offer. That amounts to just 39¢ cents more an hour.

Government Claim #2: Workers earning less than $43,000 a year or $25.95 per hour will receive 2.5%.

Fact: Caretaker staff at the Algoma District School Board top out at $27.05 an hour. Their starting wage is $23.02 an hour. No matter their earnings, because of the top rate in their pay grid, they will receive just 1.5%

School board jobs are subject to a pay grid. New workers receive one salary; those with years of experience receive another. The government offer provides wage increases based on the top rate in the wage grid. That means that if a worker’s grid goes up to higher than the cut off of $25.95 per hour but they currently earn less, they will only receive 1.5%.

Here are two more examples:

Custodian staff with the Durham Catholic District School Board can eventually earn $29.62 an hour but start at just $24.85. They will also receive just 1.5% under the offer the Ford government intends to impose.

Elementary school secretaries with the Halton Catholic District School Board can earn up to $28.39. This legislation would only give 1.5% to workers who start at $25.92.

All told, substantially more than half of CUPE’s 55,000 education worker members – the lowest paid education workers in the sector – would only get 1.5%. This proposal is not intended to offer a fair wage increase. Simply put, it does not work for workers.

Government Claim #3: The OSBCU is including part-time workers to make their pay appear worse than it is.

Fact: From the beginning, we have been clear and consistent. We’re fighting for a flat rate wage increase across all jobs and all school boards because our members earn, on average, only $39,000 a year. This is absolutely true.

The government has responded that the average salary of full-time employees is much higher.

The lowest-paid in the sector, frontline education workers work the hours they are permitted to work by management – their school boards.

Approximately 65% of education workers are laid off every year.

Our proposals would guarantee more full-time work in schools and ensure that early childhood educators and educational assistants, for example, aren’t having their labour stolen by providing unpaid prep time.

Instead of addressing the under-employment of education workers which would in turn ensure better services for students, the Ford government fails to provide the additional funding that is needed to increase the hours of services and improve the working conditions for workers who are casual, temporary, and part-time.

Government Claim #4: Bargaining is finished unless education workers rescind their strike notice.

Fact: After tabling legislation designed to trample fundamental rights, Stephen Lecce told the media that the Ford government was done bargaining. It has been reported that the Ministry of Education is saying bargaining may resume if we make substantial movement and revoke the strike notice.

Bargaining never stopped. Our central bargaining committee is still at the table, as is the government and the Council of Trustees’ Association. We hope to reach an agreement that invests in student success and ensures good jobs for workers. If a negotiated agreement that is fair for workers, students and families is not reached, strike action will proceed.