OTTAWA — Another educational workers’ union is joining the pressure campaign against the Ontario government.

In a press release Friday, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) says workers have given an overwhelming strike mandate to “support collective bargaining efforts aimed at fighting cutbacks and preserving quality education.”

OPSEU represents educational workers at the Ottawa Catholic School Board and seven other school boards in Ontario. The workers include educational assistants, clerical workers, and early childhood educators.

The union says members of the Ontario Council of Educational Workers (OCEW), of which OPSEU is a member, voted 96 per cent in favour of a strike mandate this month. Wages and benefits are some of the issues the union identified.

OPSEU First Vice-President Treasurer Eduardo Almeida says educational workers are among the lowest-paid employees in the school system, with an income ceiling of around $40,000. He cites the Ontario government’s Bill 124 as an issue, which caps public sector raises at one per cent a year.

"How can these folks do their best work when they're constantly worried about how to make their ends meet?” Almeida says.

For his part, Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the government is focussed on children in the classroom.

“Our government remains focused on landing deals with our labour partners, as we did successfully with CUPE, to provide predictability and certainty to parents, and to keep our kids in the classroom. I support a deal, not a strike. We will continue to stand with parents who know that any potential labour action by unions hurts our students. That is why we will work to ensure students remain in the classroom.”

No date for any labour action has been given. OPSEU says the OCEW will return to the bargaining table Nov. 26, the same day public school teachers represented by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario are set to begin a work-to-rule campaign.

In October, the Province reached a deal with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which also represents educational workers. 79% of CUPE members voted to ratify the deal.