About 1,000 early childhood educators, custodians, educational assistants and other CUPE members with the Lambton Kent District School Board are prepared to walk off the job on Monday, says Local 1238 President Michele LaLonge Davey.
She is lining up picket captains after CUPE’s provincial bargaining team gave notice Wednesday morning to the Ford government of a potential province-wide strike that could start in five days.
“I’ve been busy communicating with our members today and the rank and file education workers are saying, let’s go. Let’s do it,” said LaLonge Davey.
“We’d prefer not to be on strike but it’s a major issue that the government isn’t supporting our little kids.
“I simply do not understand why our government isn’t interested in investing in our schools and our children,” she said.
Less than two weeks ago, CUPE members walked off the job in protest when the government imposed legislation to prevent a strike. That legislation was revoked on Monday and the two sides resumed negotiations.
But late Tuesday talks broke down and the union has now filed another strike notice that will involve 55,000 education workers across Ontario.
“We will stand our ground if the government won’t negotiate a fair agreement,” said LaLonge Davey. “Our union members are feeling empowered. We’ve got families, students and workers all showing solidarity.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce issued a statement Wednesday saying multiple wage-related offers have been made by the province since talks resumed that represent “hundreds of millions of dollars across the sector, especially for lower income workers.”
All were rejected by the union.
Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said at a news conference today that the province offered workers a $1 per hour wage increase for each year of a collective agreement. That amounts to a 3.59% raise.
“The union originally asked for $3.25 per hour,” said LaLonge Davey. “A $1 an hour raise is insufficient and far off.
“Money is a big piece of it, but the government also has to improve job security and hire more people,” she said.
“We want people to come and work in public education knowing their job is safe and that there are enough of them that they won’t burn out.”
LaLonge Davey said there are many CUPE Local 1238 members whose families have worked in the education sector for generations.
“They believe in what they are doing and they love their jobs and they love the kids,” she said.
“We feel like we are the stewards of the system and we are ready to picket. I predict the lines will be full outside MPP Bob Bailey and MPP Trevor Jones’ offices. And we won’t be the only union out there.
“We are not alone on this.”
A union representative with the St. Clair Catholic District School Board education workers could not be immediately reached but those CUPE members are also poised to strike Monday.
Watch for updates on this story.