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Canada Ford government dodges CUPE strike but more education labour woes ahead

22:05  07 october  2019
22:05  07 october  2019 Source:   globalnews.ca

Education workers to begin work-to-rule after negotiations break off

  Education workers to begin work-to-rule after negotiations break off Some 55,000 education workers in Ontario are set to embark on work-to-rule on Monday after last-minute contract talks failed to reach a deal. The decision on a legal strike position comes at the end of two days of last-minute contract talks between CUPE, the province and the Council of Trustees' Associations in an effort to avoid a work-to-rule campaign.

READ MORE : CUPE education workers, Ontario government reach tentative deal to avoid strike . “The growing mobilizations of parents and the supportive public response to CUPE ’s negotiations are a real reflection that the people of Ontario are frustrated by the Conservative’s education cuts and are

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a close up of a sign: Education Minister Stephen Lecce speaking to the media Tuesday morning.© Global News Education Minister Stephen Lecce speaking to the media Tuesday morning.

After narrowly averting a massive strike by 55,000 educational support workers, Premier Doug Ford's government will now turn full attention to teacher negotiations.

Talks between the province and several unions are ongoing.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), l’Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO) and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) represent over 160,000 teachers currently without a deal.

How the Ontario education job action is affecting Windsor-Essex families

  How the Ontario education job action is affecting Windsor-Essex families As education workers across Ontario began a work-to-rule job action Monday, parents like April Pare and students like her daughter Addie are concerned about what will happen while employees, unions and the province attempt to work out an agreement. In addition to thousands of education workers across the province, the work-to-rule action affects almost 570 CUPE Local 1358 employees with schools part of the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB), as well as approximately 550 CUPE Local 1348 employees with the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB).

READ MORE : Ford government dodges CUPE strike but more education labour woes ahead . NDP education critic Marit Stiles said the Tory government needs to take the talks with OSSTF seriously. “It’s a really sad state of affairs if the government and minister of education are not rolling

READ MORE: CUPE education workers, Ontario government reach tentative deal to avoid strike

ETFO is currently in the process of gauging whether or not an appetite exists for job action. The union is taking strike votes with members across the province. If a majority approves, 78,000 teachers, occasional teachers and other education professionals could be in a legal potential strike position as early as November.

Sam Hammond, ETFO's president told Global News Monday, “To prepare for all possible outcomes in our bargaining, ETFO is currently holding a central or province-wide strike vote. ETFO is asking every member to strengthen our hand at the central bargaining table by voting yes because if we are serious about our priorities, now is the time to show it.”

How a school strike in Ontario could affect the election

  How a school strike in Ontario could affect the election As hard as Ontario Premier Doug Ford is trying to stay out of the federal election, the provincial political climate is threatening to drag him back into the campaign in a big way.That's because some 55,000 education workers in Ontario are poised to strike on Monday if they do not reach a contract deal by then. Such a strike has the potential to shut down classes for many of the 2 million students in Ontario's school system.

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Hammond then added, the teachers' unions have public support in their negotiations.

“The growing mobilizations of parents and the supportive public response to CUPE’s negotiations are a real reflection that the people of Ontario are frustrated by the Conservative’s education cuts and are willing to do whatever it takes to protect and improve learning and working conditions in our schools," he said.

"As elementary teachers and educational professionals, ETFO remains united in our aim to defend Ontario’s world-class public education system and services for students in our negotiations.”

Laura Walton, who headed up CUPE talks with the province, said after their deal was brokered Sunday that the union stands in solidarity with ETFO and other labour groups.

“We got your back just like you had ours,” she said.

Walton also indicated CUPE made few concessions in bargaining.

Elections Canada says it's working on a contingency plan in the event of a CUPE strike

  Elections Canada says it's working on a contingency plan in the event of a CUPE strike Elections Canada says a potential strike by Ontario education workers part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) likely won't affect schools that operate as polling places for the upcoming Oct. 21 federal election. Rejean Grenier, a regional media advisor with the federal elections office, said Elections Canada is working on a contingency plan in the event of a strike.He said Elections Canada has "made no other plans so far … and in the event that the work-to-rule situation continues, we will just work around it and people will be able to vote.

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"The province met us where they needed to be in order to get a deal, we didn’t give up anything.”

The deal still needs to be ratified by members, a process which could take a month. However Walton's message to Education Minister Stephen Lecce was clear Sunday.

"Thanks for opening the piggybank and allowing us to get the services that we needed for our students, they’ll thank you too.”

READ MORE: Parents rally in Toronto to call on Ford government to reverse cuts as CUPE strike deadline looms

Lecce responded to Walton's statement Monday.

“I think what we have done is we’ve opened up classrooms in Ontario and I think that’s the focus and I think we’ve done so within our mandate to be fair," he said on Global News Morning. "I think that all parties in the province of Ontario could leave this negotiation with a sense of incremental achievement on their priorities.“

Sources with knowledge of the negations told Global News the government essentially "caved to political pressure."

The deal happened amid a federal election where Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has been seen as distancing himself from Ford due to the premier's low approval ratings.

Talks reach make-or-break point as Ontario education workers strike looms

  Talks reach make-or-break point as Ontario education workers strike looms Last-minute contract talks continue on Sunday with a threat of a province-wide strike by Ontario education workers looming. CUPE served notice on Wednesday that some 55,000 members, from office administrators to special education assistants to custodians, are prepared to walk off the job Monday if a deal can't be reached. That notice was issued just two days into a work-to-rule campaign.A strike by education workers would see the cancellation of classes and all recreational and after-school programs starting Monday.

READ MORE : Ford government dodges CUPE strike but more education labour woes ahead . Meanwhile, the union representing Ontario’s public high school teachers began holding strike votes on Tuesday, which are set to wrap up November 15, while the union representing Ontario’s Catholic

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Sarbjit Kaur, a political strategist with KPW communications, said the deal with CUPE could end up weakening the government's position with other unions.

"The Ford government did the politically expedient thing to help Andrew Scheer who is struggling in Ontario," she said. "It didn't deliver for its base (save money for the taxpayer) as promised when elected, and parents can expect more strife in the future as the pressure of a federal election will be off."

All of the unions are currently in 'issues bargaining' with the government and trustees associations right now. During this process, major contract points such as compensation, benefits and sick leave are discussed before finer details are dealt with.

Harvey Bischof, president of the OSSTF, said Monday that unlike ETFO, "We have no arbitrary deadlines set for such things as strike votes. That will be entirely dependent on the progress we’re making at the bargaining table."

Bischof said as negotiations ramp up, Ontarians should be paying attention.

"At stake right now, is the future of Ontario’s high quality education system and the economy into which our students will graduate."

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau says Ontario parents relieved after CUPE strike averted

Bischof also raised concerns about the direction the province is moving, saying for OSSTF there are hard lines.

"The government has signaled some recognition of the value of support staff and we expect the same approach at the OSSTF support staff table," he said. "We cannot accept any different approach when it comes to the 10,000 teaching positions the government intends to slash.

"They must be reinstated so students get the course options and supports they deserve, within reasonable-sized classes. Nor should Ontario’s students be guinea pigs for a rash e-learning experiment that will jeopardize their chances at school success."

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said Sunday that Ford's policies are hurting students.

"Now more than ever, Ontarians recognize the importance of our education system and the vital role that our education workers play. As long as the deep Conservative cuts continue we can expect more chaos in our classrooms,” she said.

Right now, no formal deadline has been set for an end to talks with the four unions.

‘Walk-in’ protests over education ‘cuts’ to occur at public schools across Ontario, groups say .
Ontario Families for Public Education said the rallies scheduled for Thursday are being held to "protest education funding cuts and to celebrate the incredible gains made for our kids by CUPE education workers in their recent contract negotiations."The action comes on the heels of a victory for the union. On Sunday, CUPE announced it had reached a tentative deal with the province for 55,000 educational support workers.

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