Ontario education talks move forward after strike announcement is made


The Ontario government and educators will return to the bargaining table Sunday afternoon as pressure mounts on both sides to reach an agreement that could avert a provincewide strike over the weekend. .

Negotiations were scheduled to resume on Tuesday, but were moved up after the Canadian Civil Service Union gave the five-day notice required for an employment action.

The move causes 55,000 workers – including educational assistants, guardians and early childhood educators – to go on full strike as soon as Friday.

At least three Ontario school boards have said they will close schools if support staff withdraw their services.

The Toronto Catholic School Board, the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and the Peterborough Victorian Catholic School Boards of Northumberland and Clarington all say they will not be able to operate safely if CUPE members leave their jobs.

Mediation talks between the province and the union broke down earlier this month, with both sides still far apart on wages.

The gap continues to widen into Sunday’s trading session as the countdown ticks towards a potential strike.

“No one wants to go on strike, at least among all the lowest-paid education workers who can barely pay our bills,” said Laura Walton, president of the Ontario School Board. of CUPE, said in a statement Sunday. “However, we need a substantial raise and we deserve it.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he hoped CUPE would shake in the face of the demands, which he deemed unreasonable, but said the government would do what was necessary to keep students in school.

“We are at the table with a fair offer that includes a raise and the maintenance of the most generous pension and benefits package, but most importantly – it keeps the kids in class,” Lecce said in a newsletter on Sunday. “If CUPE goes ahead with strike and disruptive action, we will act to keep students in class so they can continue to keep up.”

CUPE is looking for an 11.7% annual salary increase. For its part, the government has offered a 2% a year wage increase for workers earning less than $40,000 and 1.25% for all others.

Educators made several other suggestions, including overtime at twice the regular rate, 30 minutes of paid prep per day for educational assistants and ECEs, increased benefits and professional development for all employees.

Aside from the wage proposal, the government’s proposal seeks to keep all other areas the same as the previous agreement except for cuts to sick leave pay.

The province wants to establish what it calls a 5-day “waiting period” for short-term disability, during which a worker will receive 25% of their normal salary and 90% for the remaining 120 days. .

The Toronto Catholic School Board sent a letter on Sunday informing parents that its 195 schools, serving more than 90,000 students, will close if CUPE goes ahead with a full-blown strike.

“We are working with our childcare providers on a contingency plan and will announce more information shortly,” the letter read. “Parents with school-age children are encouraged to make family rotation arrangements.

Kawartha Pine Ridge School Board and Peterborough Catholic School Board Victoria Northumberland and Clarington jointly operate more than 100 schools with approximately 50,000 students in Peterborough, Bowmanville and the surrounding area.

Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic have said students will transition to distance learning from home, while Kawartha Pine Ridge said they will share details of the plan if they receive notice from CUPE of pending strike action. handle.

CUPE membership returned 96.5% of strike orders earlier this month.

In 2019, CUPE and the government reached a last-minute agreement a day before workers went on full-scale strike.

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on October 30, 2022.

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