Education workers unions continue to put pressure on the Ontario government as negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement remained stagnant at Queen’s Park.
A rally was held on University Ave. outside the office of Monte McNaughton, the minister of labour, immigration, training and skills development.
The march towards Queen’s Park ended with speeches from union representatives, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees, also known as CUPE Ontario.
Without an agreement before the Nov. 4 deadline, about 55,000 workers are expected to strike across the province.
Unions are calling for an 11.7 per cent pay increase in a new collective bargaining agreement, while the government countered with a 2.5 per cent increase for workers earning $43,000 or less , and 1.5 per cent for those earning more than that threshold.
Further, workers are asking for overtime pay at twice the regular pay rate, 30 minutes of paid prep time per day for educational assistants and early childhood educators and an increase in benefits and professional development for all workers.
About 100 representatives met with the government at Queen’s Park on Nov. 2, and again in another location on Nov. 3. However, an agreement was not reached and negotiations broke down.
Earlier in the week, Premier Doug Ford said he intended his government to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause to push Bill 28, the Keeping Students in Class Act, 2022.
The Nothwithstanding Clause allows elected leaders federally and provincially to overwrite certain rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
With the bill expected to be passed, the government announced that there will be fines against education workers who strike each day starting on Nov. 4.
CUPE Ontario said they will help workers pay these fines if needed. CUPE President Fred Hahn said what’s most important is that workers engage in political protest on November 4 and fight for their right for equal pay.
“No matter what fines you hear about, don’t you worry,” said Hahn. “Our union has our back. What we’ve got to do is make sure each and every one of us is out on Friday Nov.4 engaging in a political protest to stand up for our rights, for our members, for kids and for our future.”
On Nov. 3 following the breakdown of negotiations, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said he and the government remain committed to keeping schools open and that kids should be classrooms.
“This is a different time,” said Lecce. “I’d argue that most parents would accept the premise: this is an unprecedented challenge on children. They’re seeing the regression in their children’s social, emotional physical and mental health.”
The 55,000 education workers that are expected to strike include education assistants, early childhood educators, custodians and administrative assistants.
The Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board announced that schools will be closed for in-person learning starting Nov.4 when the strike begins.
More details to come.
Listen to CJRU’s news coverage of the education workers strike: