Ontario education workers’ union files notice to go back on strike



The union that represents some 55,000 Ontario education workers has filed a five-day notice to go back on strike.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said that despite “many late hour attempts to achieve a freely negotiated settlement,” talks with the provincial government once again “broke down.”

“The difficult decision was made to serve the five day notice of strike to the Council of Trustees Association and Government,” the statement read.

In response, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government is “very disappointed” by the “unnecessary” decision to strike.

“We’ve been at the table in good faith, demonstrating a commitment to the lowest paid workers and the commitments of parents to keep their kids in school. And yet today, they have decided, again to put the province on a five-day notice to a strike,” he said at an impromptu news conference at Queen’s Park following news of the impending job action.

Both sides have stayed tight lipped on the negotiations behind closed doors at the request of the mediator, but Lecce said the ministry has offered up “multiple improved offers” that would have added “hundreds of millions of dollars across the sector.”

CUPE’s education workers are still in legal strike position after a conciliator issued what’s known as a “no board” report on Oct. 17.

The union does not have to re-request the report if it wants to strike again.

The union and the Ontario government returned to the negotiating table last week following a two-day strike by the union’s custodians, librarians and early childhood educators that forced the closure of hundreds of schools across the province.

Those workers walked off the job after negotiations for new contracts fell apart and the government introduced and passed legislation that made it illegal to strike, despite the union being in a legal position to do so at the time.

On Monday, Doug Ford’s government repealed Bill 28—which made use of the controversial notwithstanding clause—making good on a promise to scrap the legislation in a good-faith effort to end the job action and return to negotiations.

Since then, Walton has said the union and the government are still “far apart” on reaching a deal.

“We remain at the bargaining table committed to achieving a freely negotiated collective agreement that meets the needs of students, families, and workers,” she said in a statement issued Tuesday.

The government’s last offer to education workers included an annual wage increase of 2.5 per cent for those making less than $43,000 and 1.5 per cent for the rest of the workforce.

Since then, Ford has said that a new “improved” offer that would “particularly” benefit lower-income workers would be put forth, though few other details have been revealed. Unconfirmed reports surfaced last Tuesday citing a new offer of 3.5 per cent and two per cent, but Walton said at the time that the union would not accept a two-tiered offer.

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