CUPE workers begin strike in Windsor-Essex for ‘long term’, local leader says


Dozens of education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) rallied Friday on picket lines in Windsor-Essex and across Ontario, in defiance of provincial law.

At least 100 workers began gathering outside the office of Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Andrew Dowie, one of about 100 locations CUPE members planned to picket across Ontario.

A local CUPE leader told CBC News he was pleased with the number of people who showed up to support the workers, including parents and students.

“The main message is that we want support, we are here for the children, for the teachers, for the working class and we do not want a contract imposed on us. We want to negotiate a fair agreement,” said Lloyd Tazzman. , vice-president of CUPE Local 27 and janitor at Talbot Trail Public School in Windsor.

« Our fight is not with the school boards; our fight is with the government that we need funding for all areas of the school board. »

LOOK | Two people explain why they joined the picket lines in Windsor:

People demonstrate outside the office of the Conservative MP for Windsor-Tecumseh

Shannon Dumont is not a CUPE member, but she was out to show her support at one of the protests in Windsor. She brought her two daughters, one of whom wants to be a teacher’s aide when she grows up. Elaine Boucas is an early childhood educator at the Windsor Catholic School Board, she says she doesn’t earn a living wage and wants to see change.

Tazzman said the members would continue the strike indefinitely.

« I don’t think anyone wants to strike. I don’t think there is a clear winner in every strike, but I think we have to stand up for our rights and I think that’s for the long term, » a- he declared.

However, some workers fear fines for violating a strike ban imposed by the Ontario government.

A man wearing sunglasses stands in front of protesters.
Lloyd Tazzman, vice-president of CUPE Local 27 and custodian at Talbot Trail Public School in Windsor, says some members are worried about being fined under provincial law. (Darrin DiCarlo/CBC)

On Thursday, the Progressive Conservative government signed into law Bill 28, a law that imposed contracts on 55,000 CUPE members and banned them from striking. The law also uses the notwithstanding clause to protect against constitutional challenges — a legal mechanism that has been used only twice in Ontario history, both times by Premier Doug Ford’s governments.

CUPE says the law is an attack on the bargaining rights of all workers and is staging a walkout anyway, warning it will last until the government repeals the bill.

The law provides for fines of up to $4,000 per employee per day for violations of a strike ban during the term of the agreement, while fines of up to $500,000 are expected for the union.

A group of people stand on a sidewalk holding signs and coffees.
The rally outside Dowie’s office on Friday had been planned for days. (Darrin DiCarlo/CBC)

“I think they are concerned about the fines, yes,” Tazzman said Friday amid the local protest. « But I think they have to take a stand and support everyone who is here. »

In a statement released early Friday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the ministry had already filed a complaint with the Ontario Labor Relations Board in response to the « unlawful strike. »

He reiterated that the government will « use all available tools » to get students back into classrooms.

English Catholic board cancels in-person classes on Friday

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) closed schools for the day. About 400 employees, including teaching assistants, are represented by the union on the board.

The WECDSB said all non-CUPE staff should report to work and students can expect their teachers – who are not part of this union – to provide online assignments for the day. .

Five people with their backs to the camera are gathered together.  one is holding a sign that says
On Friday, protesters outside Dowie’s office carried signs reading « I support education workers. » (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

The City of Windsor offers child care services at three locations: the Optimist Community Center, the Forest Glade Community Center and the Capri Pizzeria Recreation Complex. Parents can register online or come to one of the centres.

Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) schools are open. About 600 employees, including secretaries and cleaners, are part of the union, but not teacher’s aides or early childhood educators.

The Council of French Catholic Schools, Conseil scolaire catholique Providence, offers online learning for elementary and secondary school students.

France’s public council, the Conseil scolaire Viamonde, said on Monday it had the capacity to keep schools open for a few days in the event of a strike.

CUPE says its members will be picketing the offices of MLAs across the province on Friday, and other unions are pledging to support them.

Two people are holding signs with their faces hidden.  The sign indicates
Workers hold signs amid a strike on Friday despite the Progressive Conservative government enacting a law imposing contracts on them. (Jennifer La Grassa)

The strike comes after mediation between the Ontario government and CUPE failed to reach an agreement.

Deandre Dailey, a GECDSB guard who has said he will take industrial action, wants to see wages rise. He spoke out against the law.

“It goes against the rights, the freedom that everyone has already fought for,” he said on Thursday. « I don’t think you can go against that. »

Strike until the workers decide otherwise: union

Union leaders have said education workers will not work « until our members decide otherwise ».

“We are on strike until this government recognizes that you can put in place all the laws in place, but you cannot control the movement of workers who are so fed up with your overreach,” said Laura Walton , President of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council. Trade unions.

Lecce said the government has no choice but to move forward with its legislation, which includes the notwithstanding clause allowing the legislature to strike down parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year term.

« For the sake of Ontario’s two million students, to keep classrooms open, CUPE has left us no choice but to pass the Keeping Kids in Class Act, » said he declared.

Lecce said he asked school boards to do everything possible to keep classes going.

Boards including the Lambton Kent District School Board, St. Clair Catholic District School Board and many others in the Greater Toronto Area have canceled classes.



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