ON MONDAY, ONTARIO REPEALED CONTROVERSIAL LEGISLATION THAT HAD IMPOSED A CONTRACT ON THE WORKERS AND BANNED THEM FROM STRIKING
Courtesy Barrie 360, Canadian Press Published: Nov 16th
By Liam Casey and Allison Jones in Toronto
More than 50,000 education workers in Ontario are set to go on strike Monday – two weeks after their last walkout ended – saying that while they’ve reached an agreement with the government on wages, they still want certain staffing levels to be guaranteed.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees announced Wednesday that it filed a five-day strike notice, saying that after two full days of bargaining, talks with the province have broken down once more.
Both sides have agreed to a $1-per-hour raise each year, or about 3.59 per cent annually, CUPE said, and not just for the lowest-paid workers. Previous offers from the government included higher raises for workers earning less than approximately $40,000, but CUPE was unhappy with two-tiered increases.
Laura Walton, the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said the agreement on wages was “a win,” though still “not enough.”
“This was never just about wages,” Walton said at a press conference.
“A wage increase doesn’t help if you’re going to lose your job. A wage increase isn’t going to help when you have school boards that are finding ways to get rid of people. A wage increase isn’t going to help if your hours get cut.”
CUPE said it is still looking for guarantees of higher staffing levels for educational assistants, librarians, custodians and secretaries, and an early childhood educator in every kindergarten classroom and not just classes that have more than 16 students.
Walton said those staffing requests would cost $100 million.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the wage agreement would be $335 million over four years and the province has not asked for any concessions in return.
The government put forward multiple improved offers and repealed previous legislation that imposed a contract on the workers, Lecce said.
“It’s an unfair strike on so many children they’re contemplating, especially given that the government significantly increased wages for lowest-paid workers and revoked the bill,” Lecce said. “We did everything we said we would.”
CUPE’s education workers walked off the job for two days earlier this month in response to the government enacting a law that imposed contracts on them, banned them from striking, and used the notwithstanding clause to allow the override of certain charter rights.
Hundreds of schools were closed to in-person learning for two days as a result of the walkout.
Premier Doug Ford then offered last week to withdraw the legislation if CUPE members returned to work, which they did, and bargaining resumed.
In 2019, CUPE and the government reached a last-minute deal the day before workers had been set to go on a full strike.
There are now five days to reach a deal or CUPE will strike, the union said.
“There’s always going to be pressure tactics when you’re negotiating,” Walton said. “Obviously, there’s not enough right now, or else it would be done. This could have been settled last night, we could have been standing in this room today announcing that there was a deal we’re going to be taking to our members.”
The Toronto Catholic District School Board said Wednesday that in the event of a full strike, all its schools will close to in-person learning and move classes online.
IF EDUCATION WORKERS STRIKE ON MONDAY, PUBLIC AND CATHOLIC SCHOOLS IN SIMCOE COUNTY AND MUSKOKA WILL BE CLOSED
IT WOULD BE THE SECOND TIME THE 55,000 WORKERS GO OFF THE JOB THIS MONTH, IF A DEAL ISN’T REACHED
Courtesy of Barrie 360 and Canadian Press Published: Nov 17th, 2022
By Sharif Hassan in Toronto
Files from Barrie 360
Parents in Ontario were bracing Thursday for the possibility of a strike by education workers next week that would close schools to in-person learning.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees gave a five-day strike notice on Wednesday after bargaining with the province broke down, and workers are set to walk off en masse on Monday if a deal isn’t reached.
It would be the second time the 55,000 workers go off the job this month, and several school boards have said learning will move online in the event of a strike.
If there is a strike on Monday, schools with the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB), Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) and Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) will be closed.
CUPE represents custodians at the SMCDSB, and custodians and maintenance staff at the SCDSB. At TLDSB, clerks, secretaries, technicians, custodians and maintenance staff, and educational assistants fall under the CUPE umbrella.
Khalel Shah, a Toronto father of four, said a possible strike will be challenging. While his wife isn’t working at the moment, taking care of a toddler and supervising online learning for three elementary-school kids will be hard, he said.
“Definitely it is going to be difficult for parents. This looks like it is a looming crisis,” he said outside Thorncliffe Park Public School after dropping off his children on Thursday morning.
Online learning has its own set of challenges, he added.
“I got three kids in school and I got one laptop at home,” he said, noting his children are in kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 3.
Shah called on the government and CUPE to come to an agreement that would see kids able to stay in school.
“If CUPE actually cares about the kids that they are working with, and they care about the teachers that they are helping and assisting, they would have been thinking way ahead and had resolved this,” he said.
CUPE’s education workers, including education assistants, early childhood educators and custodians, walked off the job for two days earlier this month after the province enacted legislation that imposed a contract on them and took away their right to strike.
The government then promised to repeal the legislation and the workers returned to their jobs as bargaining resumed.
Belona Stublla, a Toronto mother of a preschooler and a kindergartner, said the previous school closure over the CUPE walkout this month made it nearly impossible to get any work done, even though she can work remotely.
“I probably managed to work for an hour the entire day,” she said, adding that she’d have to work at night after her kids are asleep in the event of a strike.
“It is not productive.”
The prospect of having her kindergartner sit through online learning was also a daunting one, Stublla said.
“She loses interest very fast,” Stublla said. “I have to be very involved so (I am) pretty much losing the entire day.”
Toronto parent Tanvir Chowdhury, who has a child in school, said kids and their families will be hit the hardest if CUPE and the province don’t reach a deal before the strike deadline.
“It is the children who are going to suffer,” he said.
CUPE said the two sides recently agreed on a 3.59 per cent wage increase, but the union is still fighting for higher staffing levels for educational assistants, librarians, custodians, secretaries and early childhood educators.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government has put forward multiple improved offers and has not asked for any concessions.