Support Workers Strike in Ontario

support workers strike

At the risk of offending all the teachers and educational support workers I know, I am wondering why they think they are so special. Although the current strike on the front page of the news here in Ontario is organized by support workers and not the teachers they assist, teachers are directly affected. Ontario schools were forced to close their doors for two days when CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) workers walked off the job last Friday in response to the province’s decision to remove their right to challenge their contract or to strike.

What About Other Unions?

Everyone wants more money, especially with the cost of living rising and the economy tanking. The problem is just that, teachers and support staff are not unique. Other unions, such as those that healthcare, carpentry, and construction workers belong to, have been limited to minor increases in their recent requests for more money. Each of these unions represents essential workers. If you weren’t aware of their importance to society prior to the pandemic, hopefully you learned something since then. None of them could work from home. In fact, many worked extra hours and shifts to compensate for the extra stress in their respective workplaces.

CUPE was asking for 11.7%!! Tell that to the other unions. The government (last) offered 6%, unheard of these days.

It’s All About the Kids, Isn’t it?

Throughout the pandemic, most teachers and parents agreed that their children’s mental health was of utmost importance. Why, now that things have (somewhat) returned to normal and kids are back to in-person school, do these professionals think the time is right to strike? Do they think the students (especially the younger ones) know why their mental health is not being considered?

Teachers’ propensity to strike every few years can not help but affect their support workers. Perhaps both groups (teachers and support workers) should be included in the list of “essential services” and not permitted (or fined if they do) to strike.

Do Canadian Teachers Make More Money than Other Countries?

In Canada, education is governed by provincial politicians. That is why there is a variation between provinces in curriculum and salaries. For example, within provinces considered to be more affluent, salaries will be greater.

Canadian teachers in general are listed as number 4 in the world for their salaries. Compared to their American counterparts though, Canadian teachers and support workers pay more taxes, and most experience a more expensive cost of living.

Are Support Workers Underpaid?

Just because teachers in Ontario are paid well doesn’t mean their support workers are. Although often behind the scenes, they provide important services. In fact, without them schools often (as is the case here) find it necessary to shut down.

The Latest on Support Workers’ Strike

The latest news has Doug Ford, Ontario’s premier, promising to rescind the legislation, known as Bill 28, and the “notwithstanding clause” if the workers return to the job. What does that mean? Back to the negotiating table to find a compromise.

For the kids’ sake, let’s hope they do!

Union Bosses out of Control

Unions came into existence years ago to protect employees from unfair and unsafe work environments and practices. Over the years unions have become stronger, louder and ultra wealthy, at the expense of taxpayers, including the employees they are supposed to protect. Today union bosses control everything including wages, working conditions and even how their employees vote in elections.

How is it that unions are permitted to dictate how their employees vote in a democratic society where freedom of thought is cherished? Have you noticed how unions spend lots of money on advertisements during election campaigns? They have taken the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” practice to a whole new (unacceptable) level. Blatantly throwing money behind the parties that will in turn give them more (of taxpayers’) money when elected is disturbing. I heard from a reliable source that workers under the umbrella of one of these (too) strong unions are strongly encouraged (AKA bullied) to vote for whomever the union is promoting.

I believe in any profession some workers are better than others. The best ones should rise to the top so the not so good ones learn that their efforts and work ethic (and not the union) drive their success. In most worlds, success means a greater wage, making higher salaries fair compensation for harder workers.

Greedy union bosses prevent this practice of fairness since unions thrive on their stance that all workers are treated equally, good and bad. Their demand for more money only increases their coffers, making these unions stronger and the union bosses wealthier.

This cycle of corruption applies to most unions, including the teachers unions currently embroiled in a battle with the Ontario government. Taxpayers, parents, students and even the teachers themselves, are being held hostage because union demands for more money are not being met.

Teachers everywhere deserve respect for the job they do. Teaching children is a daunting responsibility and many (not all) teachers take this responsibility to heart, doing a wonderful job. However, the unions and the union bosses most teachers contribute to are out of control. They certainly do not appear to have the best interest of the children in mind.

Years ago, when my youngest son was perusing university degrees, thinking about his future, I thought he would make an excellent primary school teacher. I was discussing this idea with my sister that lives in the USA; she could not believe I would suggest a career in teaching. She went on to explain how overworked and underpaid the teachers are in the USA.

I am not saying that teachers here in Ontario, Canada are not hardworking, but I do believe they are well paid and respected. I also wonder how many of the dedicated teachers feel bullied into supporting their unions. I have three sons that are now past their school years and onto careers. Within their years of school I met many wonderful teachers and some not so wonderful. My eldest grandchild is currently in grade one with her siblings and cousins to follow within the next few years. I hope they are fortunate enough to be taught by men and women passionate about and committed to teaching without getting punished by the vicious cycle the unions create.

Although lots of money should never be considered to be the most important feature of success, in the competitive world we live in more money is, unfortunately, the ultimate goal. Unreasonable demands for more, at the expense of vulnerable children and their parents is just wrong.