Ontario education workers file strike notice again, say talks broke down

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TORONTO — The Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing 55,000 Ontario education workers, has filed a five-day strike notice, saying bargaining talks with the province have broken down once more.

CUPE says it reached middle ground with the government on wages but the notice of a potential provincewide strike comes after what it calls a refusal from the province to “invest in the services that students need and parents expect.”

Laura Walton, the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said the agreement on wages is a $1-per-hour raise, which is about 3.59 per cent a year. She said that’s “a win,” but is “not enough.”

“It’s not nearly what we deserve,” Walton said. “(But) this was never just about wages.”

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 at least 15 students.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the government is disappointed at the strike notice and adds that the province has put forward multiple improved offers and repealed previous legislation that imposed a contract on the workers.

“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.

Premier Doug Ford then offered last week to withdraw the legislation if CUPE members returned to work, which they did, and bargaining then resumed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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