Ontario parents are bracing for possible school disruptions as the clock ticks down on the CUPE strike deadline


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dated: 2022-11-20 08:54:37 .

Parents are preparing to walk out about 55,000 educators next week if Canada’s public sector union and the Ontario government fail to reach an agreement by the end of the strike this weekend.

A statement from the CUPE Ontario School Boards Union Central Committee on Saturday afternoon said it was still at the table and expected to stay there “late into the evening” to find the best deal for students, families and student Reach education workers on the first line.

“Although we hope that a strike will not be necessary, we are committed to informing parents about all work measures as soon as possible,” the statement said.

“We are inspired by all those who braved the cold to show solidarity and stand together at more than a dozen rallies across the province today in the fight against… [Doug] It calls on the Ford government to make much-needed investment in your schools.”

Rallies in support of CUPE workers were held across the province on Saturday morning. The rallies mark the third week of solidarity action after the Ford government passed legislation aimed at enforcing contracts and banning CUPE education workers from striking in early November.

Although the law was repealed earlier this week, both the union and the government have yet to reach a new collective agreement, and CUPE is sticking to its demand for more staffing. The final round of negotiations between the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is set to end Sunday at 5 p.m.

Teachers and supporters gathered at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto on Saturday morning for a rally in solidarity with CUPE education workers who want to reach a deal with the Ford government. (Prasanjeet Choudhury/CBC)

“If there’s money to lend to gas stations and build highways, then there’s money we can put into our schools to make sure students get the support they need,” Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, told CBC Toronto on Saturday while attending a rally at Yonge-Dundas Square.

“We know it is more than possible to reach an agreement this weekend.”

Dozens turned out for the rally on Saturday morning, where the crowd chanted: “What do we want? Good deal. When do we want it? Now.”

Miriam Zemell, an educational assistant and school secretary, said she has overseen her 24-year career as student services declined.

“We do these jobs because we really care about our students, because we really care about our students,” she said. “I work with many students who are facing many adversities in their lives. I’m here because I really believe in what we’re doing in public education, but we need proper support.”

Parents are preparing for a possible strike

Parents across Ontario are waiting to find out whether or not they will be sending their children to school Monday morning.

If they don’t reach an agreement by Sunday, educators will walk off the job the next day, forcing parents like Jessica Lyons to arrange substitute child care.

“I have a plan for Monday. I have a plan for Tuesday. But if we look beyond that, I mean, it becomes more and more stressful to think about it,” she told CBC Toronto.

Jessica Lyons, a mother of three at an elementary school in Toronto’s West End, says it’s stressful to organize extra childcare when a potential teacher strike looms. (Jessica Lyons)

Last Wednesday, CUPE issued a five-day strike notice after negotiations with the province broke down again. The announcement came less than two weeks after the union staged a strike to protest the now-repealed provincial law.

Both sides have since agreed to annual raises of $1 an hour, or about 3.5 percent a year, under CUPE, but the union says it is still calling for staffing increases for educational assistants, librarians, supervisors, secretaries and children’s fights to educators.

What both sides want

“We need to see that money is invested in the services that students need and the families that need them,” Laura Walton, president of CUPE, told CBC’s Metro Morning on Friday.

“Parents should not be given money and told, ‘Look for these services,’” she said. “These services can be provided … in our public schools.”

In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province has already funded the hiring of nearly 7,000 more workers in the sector, which he says has one of the best pension, benefits and paid sick leave programs in the country.

“To keep kids in the classroom, we’ve made multiple improvements to our CUPE offer, including an additional $335 million in wage increases for education workers alone,” the statement said.

“We need the union to do the same and put children first by calling off their second strike in two weeks. After years of adversity, like every parent in this province, we know that students deserve to be in class on Mondays.”

The province has agreed to provide free care for elementary school-age children by health workers and licensed child care workers in the event of a strike.

But the constant back and forth between CUPE and the province has frustrated parents like Bronwen Alsop of the Ontario Families Coalition.

“I want school to matter,” she told Radio-Canada. “It’s not something you can … turn on and off and turn off when it’s politically best for your union or political advantage. That’s wrong.”

Bronwen Alsop, a parent with the Ontario Families Coalition, says schools are critical and should remain open while CUPE and the province negotiate a deal for education workers. (Alexis Raymon/CBC)

With school closures during the pandemic and issues with distance learning, Alsop said she believes students should stay in classrooms while the union and province negotiate.

For most other students in the province, school boards plan to switch to live virtual learning, in some cases as early as Monday.

But in many cases, distance learning is not a suitable substitute for face-to-face learning,” said Lyons.

She wants more permanent solutions.

“Public education needs to be strengthened, it needs more funding,” Lyons said.

“We are on the same side as the educators because they see it too.”


Ontario parents are bracing for possible school disruptions as the clock ticks down on the CUPE strike deadline

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Source https://canadatoday.news/ca/parents-in-ontario-brace-for-possible-school-disruptions-as-the-clock-ticks-towards-the-cupe-strike-deadline-155191/

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