Ontario education support workers: Vote YES to strike! Build rank-and-file committees to defend public education and stop COVID!

The following statement was discussed and approved by members of the Ontario Education Workers Rank-and-File Committee (OEWRFC), which was established in August to fight for the mass political mobilization of education workers in defense of public education and to stop COVID. To get involved with the OEWRFC, [email protected] or fill out the form at the end of the statement.

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The Ontario Education Workers Rank-and-File Committee strongly urges the 55,000 education support workers who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) to vote YES in the strike authorization ballot that began on September 23. A decisive vote for strike action must be made the starting point of a political mobilization of all Ontario education workers and the working class as a whole to defend public education, defeat the hard-right Ford government’s wage-cutting and austerity policies, and secure inflation-busting wage and benefit increases .

CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU) and the province’s four teacher unions are bitterly opposed to mounting such a struggle.

Ontario support staff workers protesting against low-pay and abysmal working conditions (OSBCU Facebook)

OSBCU has delayed a strike vote as long as it could without provoking a rank-and-file explosion. OSBCU’s largest local, Local 4400, brazenly stated in a communication to workers that the aim of the strike vote is to “strengthen the bargaining committee” to reach a “negotiated settlement without a strike.” This under conditions where the government has thrown down the gauntlet by making derisory wage offers of 2 percent per year for those making less than $40,000 and 1.25 percent for those earning more, and by all but publicly vowing to illegalize any strike before it even begins.

The four teacher unions—the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and Association of Franco-Ontarian Teachers—which collectively have over 200,000 members, have indicated they won’t even schedule strike votes until the late fall or winter, even though their members’ contracts expired almost a month ago—on August 31, the same day as the CUPE workers’.

Teachers enrolled in these four unions should collectively demand immediate strike votes and make preparations to walk out alongside their brother and sister support-staff workers in OSBCU. This will require the construction of rank-and-file committees in every school and workplace across the province to seize control of the struggle from the union bureaucracy, and break out of the collective bargaining framework used by the government and unions to paralyze and smother working -class opposition.

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