le Vendredi 9 Décembre 2022
le Mercredi 2 novembre 2022 11:29 | mis à jour le 2 novembre 2022 14:55 Tribune-Express (Hawkesbury)

Education support workers may go on strike

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce tables bill to impose new contract on the 55,000 education support workers unionized under the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and wants to use the Notwithstanding Clause in the Charter of Rights to stop a strike set to start Friday. — photo Antoine Messier
Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce tables bill to impose new contract on the 55,000 education support workers unionized under the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and wants to use the Notwithstanding Clause in the Charter of Rights to stop a strike set to start Friday.
photo Antoine Messier
Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce tables bill to impose a new contract on the 55,000 education support workers unionized under the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and wants to use the Notwithstanding Clause in the Charter of Rights to stop a strike set to start Friday.

The government offered a two-per-cent annual increase for all workers with annual wages under $40,000 per year and a 1.25-per-cent increase for all others. The new deal would give a 2.5-per-cent annual increase to all workers with annual wages under $43,000 per year and a 1.5-per-cent increase for all others.

CUPE has been demanding an 11.7 per cent increase, overtime at double the regular pay rate and 30 minutes of paid prep time for educational assistants and early childcare educators.

The support workers included in the proposed deal are maintenance staff, school office and clerical staff, educational assistants, early childhood educators, library workers, and information technology staff. The workers could receive a $4000 a day fine for striking under the proposed legislation.

“This is an appalling display of contempt for workers’ rights, for the collective bargaining process, and for the workers who look after our kids and keep our schools running,” stated CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “Going full nuclear and threatening the lowest-paid education workers in the province with fines and the Notwithstanding Clause is just disgraceful, even for this premier and this education minister.”

Experts consulted by national media explained that the use of the Notwithstanding Clause by the provincial government for contract negotiations is dangerous for democracy and sets a precedent for future negotiations.

Effect on Schools

A possible strike would affect all schools in Prescott-Russell. The Conseil Scolaire de District Catholique de l’Est-Ontarien plans to keep its schools open for the time being. “However, it is possible that if this situation were to continue, there would be repercussions on the proper functioning of our schools. It is therefore likely, for public health and sanitary reasons, that learning will continue virtually.” said Lyne Racine, director of education of the CSDCEO.

The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) has decided to close its doors if the CUPE decides to move forward with the strike. “CUPE makes up approximately 25 per cent of the UCDSB workforce and holds critical positions that support our students and school system. If CUPE participates in any kind of labour action or protest that takes staff out of schools, all UCDSB schools will be closed to students” said UCDSB Director Ron Ferguson.

The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) will close all schools to students for safety reasons starting Friday November 4th if an agreement is not reached by Thursday November 3rd. The Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) will also be switching to online learning if a strike occurs.