No strike by education workers in Ontario on November 3 as high-profile talks drag on


Thousands of Ontario education support workers are preparing for possible industrial action this week – creating picket signs and leaflets – as the union nears a strike deadline with few changes in stalled contract negotiations.

While the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 55,000 support workers, is in a legal strike position on November 3, there are glimmers of good news that give parents hope that a strike could ultimately be avoided.

The third-party mediator has scheduled two more days of talks, giving CUPE and the Ford government a total of three opportunities to strike a new contract.

Read more:

High profile contract talks between government and CUPE break down before strike deadline

« We were able to confirm the first, second and third [of November]said CUPE’s Laura Walton.

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“These are really important dates. We want to make sure we use those three dates to our best advantage, to make sure we’re at the table and talking and getting a real deal.

The positive development seems to have been enough to convince CUPE to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

Under provincial collective bargaining laws, the union is required to give employers five days’ notice before leaving work. If CUPE were to go on strike on Nov. 3, the province would have demanded legal notice on Saturday – which was never issued.

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Everything you need to know as Ontario education workers consider strike

Still, Walton told Global News there had been « no change » in contract offers from either side and workers were continuing to prepare to walk off the job.

« The best way to make sure you don’t strike is to be ready for a strike, you just can’t turn these things on overnight, » Walton said.

Union members developed picket line strategies, while creating picket signs, flyers and learning activities for the children of education workers who would be on the picket lines alongside their parents.

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Meanwhile, Walton traveled the province to gather feedback from members on strike strategies should high-profile talks fail.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the union had “almost confirmed it was going to strike” and indicated the province intended to end all industrial action quickly.

“While this union puts its own interests before those of children, we will ensure that Ontario students stay in the classroom,” Lecce said in a statement without providing details on how the government would ensure that the school would not be interrupted.

Although a strike is not a guarantee, at least one school board has indicated that industrial action by CUPE will lead to the closure of a school

Read more:

Public and Catholic schools in Peterborough will close if CUPE education workers strike and withdraw their services

For schools that remain open in the event of a strike, Walton said members would focus on information pickets rather than blocking families from accessing the school setting.

« We’re not here to stop parents from enrolling their child in daycare, we have no desire to do anything like that, » Walton said.

Meanwhile, Walton has had « preliminary conversations » with other unions in the education sector about what would happen in the event of a strike.

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While it’s unclear whether the teachers would cross the picket lines, Walton said CUPE clearly expects other union members not to perform the work of other striking employees.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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