CUPE to stage ‘political protest’ Friday from Oakville to Oshawa and across Ontario if no education workers deal reached

By

Published October 31, 2022 at 4:45 pm

CUPE education workers have given their five-day notice of a “full withdrawal” of services if no agreement is reached, the union has declared.

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn said Premier Doug Ford and his ruling Conservative party’s negotiating style is nothing more than “bully tactics” and said education workers are prepared to go on strike Friday, despite massive financial penalties for doing so,

“Lecce wants to convince kids and parents and education workers that he has, in his words, no other choice but to introduce this legislation but that’s simply not true,” said Hahn. “He has a choice to offer an adequate salary increase that compensates for over a decade of wage cuts. He has a choice to invest in education to ensure adequate staffing levels from the classrooms to the libraries. And he has a choice to continue negotiations without having the threat of ramming through a contract full of concessions and wage cuts over the heads of frontline workers.”

The ‘final offer’ of the government to education workers consists of a wage increase of 2.5 per cent for employees earning less than $25.95/hr, and 1.5 per cent for those earning more; an offer the union calls “inadequate” as a protection against job cuts. The offer also does not include paid prep time for education workers who work directly with students and a cut to the sick leave/short-term disability plan.

“Lecce calls this offer a generous one,” said Hahn. “A half percent wage increase to an already-insulting offer isn’t generous. An additional 200 bucks in the pockets of workers earning 39K isn’t generous. It wouldn’t even be generous to accept our proposal – it would be necessary, reasonable, and affordable. It’s simply what’s needed in our schools.”

The government has introduced legislation that will use the notwithstanding clause to force the union to accept the offer and prevent a strike.

The union, however, will hold a political protest Friday if that happens, despite fines of up to $4,000 per employee per day and up to $500,000 for the union.

CUPE would pay any fines incurred by its workers, the union said. CUPE also declared it would continue negotiations this week, despite the ultimatum from Queen’s Park.

“We have three more days of bargaining left despite the tabling of this legislation and imposing this totally inadequate contract,” Hahn said. “Lecce and Ford might think they can just rely on this bully tactic of a legislation. But we’ve been in mass meetings the last week with education workers – frontline workers who’ve resoundingly expressed their commitment to ensuring good wages, work conditions, and educational environments.”

“On Friday, regardless of what this government does, we will be engaging in province-wide political protest where no CUPE education worker will be on the job until we get a real deal. Our members will not have their rights legislated away. Now’s the time to stand up for ourselves and public education and that’s just what we’re going to do.”

School boards in Halton and Clarington have so far stated that schools would be closed if a strike occurs.

indurham's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising