Ontario’s school support staff are moving toward a strike vote starting Sept. 23 over extended benefits, short-term disability leave and wage increases, among other requests by the workers’ union the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

In its initial proposal, the CUPE is asking the government to provide additional funds to cover the increasing costs of medications and health and dental services, according to the CUPE’s Ontario School Board’s Council of Union’s website.

Currently, almost all of the CUPE members who are classified as temporary or casual aren’t eligible for benefits, so the union is asking the government to explore the possibility of extending benefits to these members. CUPE is also asking for a yearly pay increase of 11.7 per cent — or $3.25 per hour in wages.

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The union, which represents 55,000 school support workers, including early childhood educators, school administration workers, bus drivers and custodians, is also seeking for all overtime to be payable at double time, as well as guaranteed service and staffing levels in schools.

According to Press Progress, the government’s first counteroffer included a two per cent average wage increase for members earning less than $40,000 per year and 1.25 per cent for the majority of members earning more than $40,000. The government offer also cuts short-term disability pay from 90 per cent to 25 per cent for the first five days and includes an application process for the benefit.

“The current 11 sick leave days and 120-day short-term disability plan needs to be sustainable to remain viable on an ongoing basis,” said the government’s proposal.

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