Nov 04, 2022

By Jane Brown

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Education workers in the province are on strike (as of Friday at 12:01am) and setting up picket lines at the offices of Progressive Conservative MPPs across the province.

A major demonstration is also planned for Queen’s Park.

Late Thursday afternoon, CUPE representatives shouted from the gallery inside the legislature as the Ford Tories passed Bill 28 to impose a contract on education workers and ban their strike by using the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause.

It is worth noting Premier Doug Ford was not in his seat in the legislature for the vote.

After the bill was passed, Union President Laura Walton disclosed they had offered to Education Minister Stephen Lecce they were willing to compromise on annual increases.

“We moved to see, hey if we drop it substantially are you going to move?” Walton told reporters, “Not an inch. As a matter of fact the minister told you today that our sick leave is secure. It is not. He said that he came to us with generous increases. No he did not. As a matter of fact, if you read the legislation and compare it to the current collective agreement that is now gone, he has once again stripped away from the very workers that he told had to report to work during the pandemic.”

Walton along with other leaders of different unions in the province say the new law, which uses the notwithstanding clause to protect against constitutional challenges, is an attack on all workers’ bargaining rights.

The law includes daily fines of $4000 for every worker who goes on strike and $500,000 for CUPE.

CUPE representatives have said the union will cover the bills for fines against workers, which could cost as much as $220-million a day.

Stephen Lecce continues to stay on message.

“As noted, if CUPE moves forward with their strike, we will do everything we can to reduce this unacceptable disruption on children, children who have been through so much over the past few years,” Lecce explained.

Unless there is a change of heart from either side, it’s expected the education workers strike will last beyond Friday.

In the meantime, schools across the GTA are closed for in-person learning on Friday with the exception of Halton District school board elementary and secondary schools.

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