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Ontario education union launches new campaign as negotiations with province heat up

A union representing education workers in Ontario has launched a new campaign arguing that a salary of $39,000 is “not enough” amid contract negotiations with the provincial government.

The campaign centers around a radio advertisement that urges listeners to tell Premier Doug Ford that “$39,000 is not enough for education workers, or anyone.”

In the ad, a male voice is heard listing off a variety of frontline education jobs, including educational assistants, secretaries and custodians. The voice says that because these employees are paid about $39,000 on average, “thousands are on the brink of poverty.”

A website encourages Ontario parents and community members to sign a petition demanding that the Ford government hire more education workers and significantly increase wages.

“We’re living check to check,” chief custodian Holly Rodrique said in an audio clip as part of the campaign.

“It's very, very important that we get a decent wage, to be able just to live.”

Earlier this month, the Ontario government offered education workers making less than $40,000 a two per cent raise in a proposed four-year deal. All other employees were offered a 1.25 per cent raise.

At the time, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said the offer was disheartening, considering salaries for education workers have been capped for the last three years to one per cent increases. They have called for a $3.25 an hour raise for all education workers, regardless of salary.

A raise of $3.25 equals a roughly 11.7 per cent increase of their annual salary.

The lowest paid workers in the sector, education workers have faced a real wage cut of more than 11 per cent over the last 10 years due to provincial legislation,” the website says. “Significant increases to the education worker wage are needed to face current inflation pressures, keep education workers above the poverty line, and prevent valued and experienced workers from leaving the field.”

Deals with five of Ontario’s major education unions expire on Aug. 31.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has maintained that the province’s offer is fair and he is confident a deal will be reached.

"Kids will be returning to a more normal, a much more enjoyable and a stable September, right to June. That is what children deserve and it requires all of us to have the political fortitude to stand up for stability against the backdrop of a pandemic or never-ending union negotiations,” he said on Tuesday.

"We believe the offer we made CUPE is fair and reasonable and affordable for taxpayers."

Laura Walton, an educational assistant and president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions, told CTV News Toronto the campaign aims to clear up the definition of “education workers” and that not all employees are experiencing the same working conditions and wages.

“It became extremely important for us to ensure that the public understood who we are, and what it is that we do in our schools, and most importantly, just how low paid we are,” she said.

Kristine Hamilton, an educational assistant at an Ontario elementary school, is another of the staff CUPE has showcased in its new campaign. She says that she would love to see an educational assistant in every classroom, but it’s just not possible with the current level of funding.

“We don't make the salary of other educators that are in the room,” she is heard saying in a clip posted to the campaign’s website. “They ask, ‘how do you live on that?’ I say, well exactly, how do you live on that?” Top Stories

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