Legislation would deliver stability, support mental health and ensure students stay in class to catch up
The Ontario government today introduced the Keeping Students in Class Act that would, if passed, ensure students remain in the classroom where they belong by establishing a fair and fiscally-responsible four-year collective agreement with CUPE education workers across the province.
“Students are finally back in class catching up, following two years of pandemic disruptions. We are disappointed that CUPE is refusing to compromise on their demand for a nearly 50 per cent increase in compensation, representing a price tag close to $19-billion if extended across the sector,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “CUPE has now made the decision to strike, putting their own self interest ahead of Ontario’s nearly two million children, who deserve to stay in class learning. We are delivering on our promise to parents that our government will do whatever it takes to keep students in class, so they can catch up and get back to the basics of learning.”
In an attempt to reach an agreement and protect in-class learning for nearly two million students, the government extended an updated proposal to CUPE that enhanced Ontario’s offer. Unfortunately, CUPE is proceeding with strike action, even after a good-faith attempt by the government to deliver a deal that is fair for workers and good for students. To ensure students remain in stable classrooms, the Keeping Students in Class Act would, if passed, establish a four-year collective agreement for Ontario’s 55,000 education workers that ensures stability for students and includes:
- A salary increase of 2.5 per cent (increased from an initial offer of 2 per cent) for employees with the top end of their salary/wage grids below $43,000 annually (increased from $40,000) and 1.5 per cent (increased from 1.25 per cent) for employees with the top end of their salary/wage grids above that amount for each year of the contract;
- An increase in benefits contributions resulting in a $6,120 annual employer contribution per employee by August 31, 2026;
- Funding through the Support for Students Fund, estimated to support up to 875 teachers and between 1,600 and 1,830 education workers;
- Modification to sick leave and short-term disability leave plan provisions that protect stability of student learning, while maintaining generous pension, benefits and sick leave programs;
- $4.5 million in funding for apprenticeship training; and
- An extension of modified job security provisions.
To protect against legal challenges, which may create destabilizing uncertainty for students and families, this Act would provide that it shall operate notwithstanding sections 2, 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and despite the Human Rights Code.
The government will continue labour bargaining with Ontario’s other education unions to reach fair agreements for workers, while ensuring students remain in-class without disruption.
- Ontario’s education workers are among the best paid compared to other provinces.
- The average salary for a CUPE employee is $26.69 per hour.
- Ontario has hired 29,000 additional education workers since 2002-03 including 4,600 since 2017-18.
- The importance of children remaining in school was stressed throughout the pandemic by pediatric experts who noted that being away from school had an adverse impact on both children’s learning and their mental health.
- The recent release of EQAO results for 2021-22 clearly demonstrates that Ontario students need to remain in class without interruption, with a special focus on catching up in math, reading and writing. The impact of the pandemic on student achievement has been consistent with global trends.
- Ontario recently enhanced its Plan to Catch Up with Math Action Teams being deployed to underperforming school boards; new digital resources to support parents, students and educators; new universal screening for reading for Ontario’s youngest learners; and the extension of the government’s historic tutoring support program.