On Sunday evening, after days of last-minute contract negotiations between the Ontario government and CUPE (The Canadian Union of Public Employees), support staff in the education sector have begun begin their work-to-rule strike.
According to CBC, CUPE had been demanding a better deal for support staff regarding salaries, with most only earning $38,000 annually. However, amidst growing cuts in education from the Ford government, talks finally dissolved and a legal strike position will now come into effect on Monday, September 30.
Work-to-rule strike means that staff will only complete tasks which they are legally obligated to do under their contract. This means that custodians will not take on take on tasks such as using a Zambonini on floor, office staff will not supervise children, and education assistants do not need to stay in class if a teacher leaves.
“It is deeply disappointing that CUPE has decided to end talks this weekend,” Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, began in a statement, “and proceed with a partial withdrawal of services, despite a limited number of outstanding items at the table.
“The Crown and the employers tabled a reasonable offer and expanded our offer through the negotiations with one interest in mind: landing a deal that keeps our kids in class. We have offered proposals to address compensation, job security and funding for additional staffing. A key issue that remains is resolving rising absenteeism rates, and the impact that has on students and schools.”
Those who are going on strike include support workers, clerical staff, custodians, and educational assistants, many of whom are essential to the long-term maintenance of any education facility. The Crown and the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) say they have been negotiating a fair deal and will continue to work towards an amicable agreement with CUPE.
“The Crown and the Council of Trustees’ Associations have been and will continue to negotiate in good faith,” Lecce continued. “We remain fully committed to resuming discussions with CUPE to reach an agreement quickly to provide predictability to parents and students. On my direction, through our mediator, we have asked for additional bargaining dates to bring everyone back to the table so that we can ensure our kids remain in class.
“During this period of job action, student safety will remain the utmost priority — a position I know we all share,” Lecce said.
“We stand with parents working to protect our students’ futures, invest in their potential and ensure they remain in the classroom.”