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Lecce tables legislation to stop Ontario education worker strike


Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has formally tabled back-to-work legislation that aims to block a planned strike by school support staff.


Lecce rose inside the legislature shortly after 1 p.m. to introduce the bill, which is titled the “Keeping Students in Class Act.”


If passed, the bill will “terminate any on-going strike or lock-out by, or in respect of, employees of school boards who are represented by CUPE.”


It will also effectively impose a new four-year collective bargaining agreement on the workers represented by the union.


“Today the Ford government introduced legislation to force the lowest paid education workers further into poverty,” Laura Walton, who is the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said during a press conference at Queen’s Park immediately after the legislation was tabled. “Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce’s bill will mean that workers will have to make a decision between putting gas in their car or buying their child a snow suit, between buying groceries or paying the hydro bill.” 


The tabling of the legislation comes one day after CUPE provided the required five days of notice to formally begin job action as of Friday.


CUPE represents approximately 55,000 school support staff, including custodians, early childhood educators, education assistants, and administration staff.


The workers have been without a collective agreement since Aug. 31 and despite several rounds of talks, a new one has yet to be negotiated.


  • Stephen Lecce will speak live to the media at 2 p.m. Watch live on CTVNewsToronto.ca


Among other things, CUPE wants a yearly wage increase of $3.25/hour (11.7 per cent), early childhood educators in every kindergarten class, five additional paid days before the start of the school year, 30 minutes of paid daily prep time, an increase in overtime pay, and a $100 million investment in new job creation.


The province’s latest offer, proposed at an emergency mediated session on Sunday afternoon, is a four-year deal that includes a 2.5 per cent annual raise for workers who make under $43,000, and a 1.5 per cent yearly wage increase for those who make more. This is up from their initial offer of a two per cent annual increase for workers who make less than $40,000 and a 1.25 per cent raise otherwise.


Following Sunday’s meeting, Lecce said CUPE did not accept the government’s “more generous” offer and still intends to strike starting Friday.


He then indicated that the government had “no other choice but to introduce legislation, which will ensure that students remain in-class to catch up on their learning.”


The back-to-work legislation is expected to be passed by Thursday, preventing a strike.


“We believe children deserve to be in class. That is why we gave CUPE an opportunity yesterday and presented a better deal, 10 per cent over four years and the maintenance of the best benefits and pension and sick leave programs in the nation,” Lecce said during Question Period on Monday morning. 


This is a breaking news story. More information to come. 

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