TORONTO – The Ontario Council of Education Workers (OCEW), which is affiliated with the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU), has voted unanimously to ratify a new collective agreement.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is pleased that the deal has been accepted. “Education bargaining has been very difficult across the board, and the COVID-19 emergency hasn’t helped,” he said. “But exhaustive negotiations have paid off and our members can focus on doing what they do best: creating welcoming learning environments that allow our students to grow and flourish in every aspect of their development.”
The OCEW is a bargaining council representing approximately 7,000 educational professionals working as teaching assistants, educational assistants, behavioural teaching assistants, designated early childhood educators, clerical staff, IT and many others at public and Catholic school boards. They are divided among seven unions, including OPSEU and its affiliate the Educational Resource Facilitators of Peel (ERFP).
The three-year agreement, retroactive to September 1, 2019, includes wage increases of one percent in each year, as well as significant improvements to benefits. While the yearly wage increases may be disappointing, OPSEU first vice-president/treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida points out that the union has launched a Charter challenge of Bill 124, which limits public sector wage increases to one percent.
“This is bad legislation,” he said. “It clearly violates Section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by undermining our right to bargain collectively and freely. Four years ago, the Supreme Court ruled against the Wynne government for imposing bargaining limits, and we’re confident the court will do the same with this challenge.”
“Considering our talented educational professionals earn some of the lowest salaries in the public sector—completely out of whack with their contributions to student success—it’s only right they be able to negotiate wage increases that meet and exceed inflation,” said Mr. Almeida.
OPSEU represents roughly 3,000 education workers with 10 school boards, including the Rainbow District School Board. The Educational Resource Facilitators of Peel, OPSEU’s affiliate, represents roughly 4,000 members.