Ontario Government Isn't Letting Education Workers Go On Strike & Things Are Getting Nasty

There's concern over what this could mean for the future.

Ontario Editor
Education Minister Stephen Lecce at Queen's Park. Right: An empty classroom.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce at Queen's Park. Right: An empty classroom.

Contract negations between the Ontario government and the province's 55,000 education workers remain at a stalemate — but it seems one side has lost its patience.

The Ford government is set to introduce back-to-work legislation Monday that will keep these custodians, educational assistants, and admin staff from going on strike and force them back on the job with a new contract they haven't agreed to.

This contract was dubbed the province's "final offer" Sunday when they proposed a four-year deal with an annual raise of 2.5% for workers who make under $43,000 and a 1.5% raise for anyone who makes more.

In contrast, since negotiations first began, CUPE has been seeking a wage increase of $3.25 per hour, which amounts to 11.7%.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce then took to Twitter and all but confirmed his government's plans to introduce back-to-work legislation.

"Kids will be in class. Enough is enough," Lecce wrote.

Lecce's office has since confirmed legislation to "keep students in class" will be tabled Monday afternoon and the minister will speak to the media shortly afterward.

In response to Lecce's statement, The Ontario School Board Council of Unions said it's clear the government has "no intention of negotiating".

"What the government is trying to force on education workers is not acceptable for anyone," the statement reads. "They told us that if we did not accept this final offer, they would impose this through legislation that they would introduce as early as Monday October 31."

Throughout the weekend there had been warnings of the impacts of strike action by education workers.

The Toronto Catholic School Board was among several boards who said schools would have to close Friday, when strike action is set to begin.

In a statement of its own Sunday night, The Toronto District School Board said parents, students, and caregivers should be "prepared for all possibilities".

"With approximately 14,600 TDSB staff members represented by CUPE, maintaining a normal routine will be very difficult," said the TDSB.

While the week ahead will answer many of the questions surrounding the strike and these contract negotiations, others have been quick to point out what the Ford government decides on this issue will be telling for its relationships with unions going forward.

It is a union's right to go on strike.

As of August 31, all five of Ontario's major education unions have been working under expired contracts and have been in the midst of bargaining talks with the province.

Stuart McGinn
Ontario Editor
Stuart McGinn is Narcity’s Ontario Editor and focuses mainly on covering major provincial and local news stories across the province. Stuart is from Ottawa and is now based in Toronto.
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