Hoping to avoid school work-to-rule campaign, CUPE and province holding weekend talks

A union representing education workers and the Ontario government have scheduled two days of last-minute contract talks in an effort to avoid a work-to-rule campaign.

CUPE, which represents 55,000 education workers in Ontario, has formally submitted notice that puts it in a legal strike position as of Monday. On Tuesday, a union leader said she expects the job action will disrupt the daily function of schools.

The new meetings between the union, province and the Council of Trustees’ Associations are set for Saturday and Sunday.

CUPE is just one of the unions locked in talks with Doug Ford’s PC government. So far, none have been able to reach a deal, raising the concern of a widespread school strike that could happen this fall.

Laura Walton, the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said her union is trying to protect its workers (ranging from education assistants to custodians to early childhood educators), and the services students receive.

“This year we’ve seen those services decimated: school libraries closed over students’ lunch breaks because there aren’t enough library workers; school cleaning cut to the point that custodians are told they can only vacuum kindergarten classrooms once a week; eight or nine students with special needs now supported by a single education assistant; communications with parents affected because some schools have lost their school secretaries,” Walton said in a news release.

“If it takes job action to restore these services, then so be it.”

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has repeatedly said the government is committed to reaching a deal that provides stability for workers, parents and students alike.

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