Ontario education workers are striking over extended benefits, short-term disability leave and wage increases, among other requests by the workers’ union the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
The CUPE is asking the provincial 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.
The union is seeking minimum standards on vacations and leaves of absence, including five days of bereavement leave and paid quarantine leave separate from sick leave. It’s also asking for an annual pay increase of 11.7 per cent — or $3.25 per hour in wages.
The government’s latest offer would give 2.5 per cent annual raises to workers making less than $43,000 and 1.5 per cent raises for all others, as well as an increase in benefits contributions, resulting in a $6,120 annual employer contribution per employee by September 2026, according to a press release.
The job action takes place following weeks of negotiations with the provincial government and just days after the government invoked the notwithstanding clause to impose contracts on the roughly 55,000 education workers and to prevent them from striking. According to the legislation, employees taking part in job action face daily fines of up to $4,000, while the CUPE would face fines of up to $500,000 a day.