Ontario education workers to resign Friday despite anti-strike law, CUPE . says

The union, which represents some 55,000 education workers in Ontario, says its members will lay down their jobs Friday in a provincial protest, regardless of Ontario’s proposed anti-strike legislation.

At a news conference Monday, the union said education workers will “withdraw their workforce” to protest the province’s move, which they called a “monstrous overshoot”.

The Ontario government introduced the Keeping Students In Class Act on Monday, invoking the notwithstanding clause to contract education workers and avert a strike. The clause – or section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – gives provincial legislators or parliament the ability, by passing a law, to ignore certain parts of the Charter for a five-year term.

Education workers can face fines of up to $4,000 a day if they strike, the law states.

The union held the press conference hours after the provincial government announced it planned to introduce legislation to block the potential jobs campaign.

CUPE has said it will explore all avenues to fight the bill, but the government said it plans to use the not-withstanding clause to keep the final law in force despite any constitutional challenges.

  • You can view the proposed legislation for yourself at the bottom of this story.

Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce spoke to reporters Monday afternoon and called the union’s decision to continue the strike “unacceptable”.

“The government has no choice but to take immediate action today,” Lecce said, signaling that the union rejected its latest offer, adding that he believes the legislation is in fact constitutional.

WATCH: ‘I won’t accept a strike for a day’: Stephen Lecce

‘I will not accept a strike for a day’: Stephen Lecce

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the Ford government has offered a higher wage package to CUPE education workers, but “when we give a union an option and go down the slope to avoid a strike and to prevent a contract from being legislated, and they decide to go ahead with the strike; you would expect the government to stand up for children’s right to learn.”

The government offered wage increases of two percent per year for workers earning less than $40,000 and 1.25 percent for everyone else. Lecce said the new, four-year deal would give 2.5 percent pay increases to workers earning less than $43,000 and 1.5 percent pay increases to everyone else.

CUPE has said that its employees, who earn an average of $39,000 a year, are generally the lowest-paid schools, and the union is aiming for annual salary increases of 11.7 percent.

“The government is going to pass the bill. We are moving forward,” Lecce said.

The education minister said his move was not a general approach, and said he will continue to negotiate with other education unions.

Unclear how long protest can last

As for whether the job campaign will last more than a day, union officials said it remains to be seen.

The union also said it will provide financial support for any repercussions workers could face if they protest the legislation.

On Sunday, education officials, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), issued the required five-day notice for work actions, causing members — including teaching assistants, caregivers and early childhood educators, but not teachers — to go on strike completely as early as Friday.

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

The government and education staff returned to the negotiating table on Sunday afternoon, but no progress appears to have been made since then.

Union officials said the county’s offer made on Sunday would have brought in just a penny more for each worker, giving the union an ultimatum. Instead of the government negotiating, officials said they heard the government plans to pass laws against a strike if the union doesn’t agree.

laura walton
Laura Walton, dressed as Rosie the Riveter on Halloween, speaks Monday at Queen’s Park in Toronto. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“If Stephen Lecce cared about kids, he wouldn’t have given the parents $200,” said CUPE member Laura Walton, dressed in a Rosie the Riveter Halloween costume, an American character representing women who worked in factories during World War I. and shipyards worked. — a choice she said was meant to send a message.

Still, she said, “the negotiations are not finalized.”

ETFO Walks Away From Negotiation Monday

Meanwhile, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said in a press release on Monday that it “unequivocally” condemned the Ford government’s move.

The union, which represents some 83,000 Ontario elementary school teachers, said it was ending its own negotiations with the government before Monday because it could not “sit with the government in good conscience,” ETFO president Karen Brown said.

“ETFO supports CUPE members and their right to strike for better wages and working conditions, and not with a regressive government disguising anti-labor laws as pro-education,” Brown said.

The Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) also issued a statement, calling the proposed legislation “heavy handed,” which “effectively undermines and disrupts their rights to free and fair collective bargaining.”

The union, which represents more than 60,000 members across Ontario, says it stands “in solidarity” with CUPE’s members, but remains focused on its own negotiations with the province.

“We continue to call on the Ford government to work within a fair process that respects and upholds all Charter workers’ rights, and to invest in public education and to make a fair deal,” OSSTF chairman Karen said. Littlewood.

Read the proposed legislation here:

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