Mediation ends in Ontario, strike planned for tomorrow

Education workers could face fines of $4,000 as part of new legislation using notwithstanding clause

Mediation ends in Ontario, strike planned for tomorrow

Up to 55,000 education support workers in Ontario with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are set to strike tomorrow after mediation talks broke down today.

“It is clear that this government never intended to negotiate. The time and effort they have spent on Bill 28, which strips away education workers Charter Rights, should have been spent on a deal that would have respected workers and ensured the services that students desperately need are secured,” said the bargaining committee.

Stephen Lecce, education minister, says the government made “a good faith effort” but the union wouldn’t budge.

“After demanding nearly a 50-per-cent increase in compensation, CUPE threatened to strike. Since then, we’ve been at the table, literally right up to the last minute today. We made good faith efforts to reach a fair deal, but all along,  CUPE refused to take strikes and disruption off the table,” he says.

“For the sake of Ontario's two million students, to keep classrooms open, CUPE has left us with no choice but to pass the Keeping Kids in Class Act.”

Read more: CUPE threatens walkout by 55,000 members on Nov. 4

Bill 28 uses the notwithstanding clause to legislate a four-year contract onto workers while preventing them from taking job action.

As part of the legislation, any employees or bargaining units who fail to comply could face a fine of $4,000 each, up to $500,000.

Several groups have criticized the Ontario government’s use of the notwithstanding clause, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

“The suspension of people’s rights is something that you should only do in the most exceptional circumstances, and I really hope that all politicians call out the overuse of the notwithstanding clause to suspend people’s rights and freedoms.”

Illegal strike

Should education workers go on strike, once the legislation passes, it will be illegal, says Lecce.

“We will use every tool we have to end their disruption.”

The minister said he has directed school boards to do everything possible to stay open tomorrow, and for teachers to be at work, to “reduce this unacceptable disruption on children, children who have been through so much over the past few years.”

Read more: Ontario could save $10 billion with Bill 124

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union says its 8,000 education workers will also walk off the job Friday in solidarity with CUPE:

“Bill 28, which is a legislative attack on workers' constitutional right to fair and free collective bargaining, was introduced on Oct. 31 after CUPE gave its five days' notice for job action, with the possible start of a strike on Friday, Nov. 4. Bill 28 preemptively prohibits these workers' right to strike, imposes massive fines, imposes four-year long collective agreements, and invokes the notwithstanding clause to preclude any legal action against [Premier Doug] Ford's unconstitutional and undemocratic attempt at strong-arming.”


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