Schools: the special law should be adopted today in Ontario

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Éschools: the special law should be adopted today in Ontario

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Education Minister Stephen Lecce say special legislation is needed to keep students in the classroom (file).

The Ford government must pass its special bill on Thursday to impose a collective agreement on 55,000 support workers in schools and prevent them from walking off. Their union nevertheless maintains that its members will be on strike from Friday.

These union members include teacher's aides, janitors, librarians and administrative workers.

The special bill provides for fines of up to $4,000 per worker ($500,000 for the union) for each day of walkout.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), however, says it is prepared to cover these fines and indicates that the strike will continue after Friday, failing an agreement in principle with the government.

Laura Walton, President of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions, confirmed in a statement late Wednesday that the Ford government had rejected the counter-offer CUPE made the day before. According to her, this proposal contained “substantial changes”, but she did not give details, citing the confidentiality agreement concluded with the mediator.

The two parties do not agree on salaries, in particular. The special bill limits annual raises to 2.5% for support workers earning less than $43,000 and 1.5% for others. The union initially demanded 11.7%. It is unclear whether CUPE reduced its demand in its counter-offer.

Ontarian parents facing the strike

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Many school boards, including the English Public Board of Toronto (TDSB) and MonAvenir, said their schools would be closed on Friday due to the work stoppage CUPE.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents 8,000 education workers, is urging its members in schools not to show up for work Friday either in solidarity with their colleagues in the CUPE.

Bill 28 is not just an attack on the right of education workers to bargain collectively, it is a attack on the rights of all workers, says OPSEU President JP Hornick in a statement.

The Syndicate says it will cover any possible fines.

For its part, the Federation of Secondary School Teachers (FEESO), which also represents support staff in schools, says by email that its members will be at work on Friday, but that they will take part in “activities” in support of CUPE union members, without giving details.

Premier Doug Ford and his Minister of Education , Stephen Lecce, have repeated over the past few days that their special bill is needed to keep students in class.

Minister Lecce said the province cannot negotiate with CUPE as long as the Union maintains its threat to strike.

The government has also indicated that it will use the notwithstanding provision, commonly known as the notwithstanding clause, of the Canadian Charter human rights and freedoms to bypass any legal recourse against its special law.

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