EDITO: An education strike that no one will win

We can sympathize with the government, which wants children to go to school. And with education workers too, who are underpaid. But now both sides have gone too far.

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In 2015, then-Premier Kathleen Wynne used back-to-work legislation to end a six-week teachers’ strike at three Ontario school boards. She waited to be convinced that the strike was endangering the school year.

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In 2017, his government introduced legislation to end a five-week strike by community college professors, again after concluding that the academic year was in jeopardy.

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In 2022, the dispute involves teacher aides, early childhood educators, janitors and support staff from several Ontario school boards. And a different provincial government, under Doug Ford, has very different ideas on how to tackle it. Bill 28, passed Thursday, makes the strike by this group illegal and imposes a new contract on 55,000 workers. For good measure, Ford added the “notwithstanding” clause to the Bill of Rights to protect the legislation from legal challenges.

We can sympathize with the government’s original intention: to keep children in the classroom after two difficult years due to COVID-19. We also sympathize with the workers: they are paid at the bottom of the public education scale.

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After that, it’s the pox on their two houses.

As poorly paid as these workers are (compared to others in the public sector), their union was insisting until this week on annual increases of more than 11%. If you are in the private sector, this negotiating position may surprise you; you probably haven’t had a pay raise beyond (maybe) a percent or two in a few years. You are struggling with the cost of living. You will pay for the raise that these government employees will ultimately get. And of course, you want your children to be in school, where you appreciate the work of EAs and others. CUPE is a little less worried about your children: a powerful union, it wants to use this dispute to set a precedent for future contract increases in other areas.

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The government, meanwhile, seems deaf to the role these vital workers play, in the same way that it (and previous governments) has ignored people such as personal support workers in health care. . With the school workers, he should have been more flexible.

Instead, he didn’t just reach for the hammer, but Thor’s hammer.

The result: an ugly stalemate, a big baton contest. Whatever the ending, the bad feelings get worse. Families and students will be hurt. Legal experts will continue to sound the alarm about the future of Charter rights.

Both parties have gone too far. Now they must find ways to back off, if this is to end without further harming the children. The government and the union each have their own learning to do.

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