Talks were continuing Sunday between the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the province in an attempt to reach a deal and an avert a strike by 55,000 education workers.
If a deal cannot be reached, workers represented by CUPE would begin a strike on Monday, that would see the closure of the Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board’s 13 schools across Grey-Bruce along with the Conseil scolaire catholique Providence’s Saint-Dominique-Savio in Owen Sound. Bluewater District School Board schools are to be open regardless of a strike.
CUPE issued a news release on Saturday afternoon saying that talks were continuing between CUPE, the Ontario School Board Council of Unions, the province and the Council of Trustees’ Assocations.
The talks are aimed at ending the workers’ job action, which began last Monday as a work-to-rule campaign, but will escalate to a full strike on Monday if a deal is not reached before then, the release from CUPE said.
The parties have agreed to a media blackout for the duration of negotiations in order to focus on reaching a settlement, the release said.
The Bruce-Grey Catholic board announced the decision on Friday to close its schools in the event of a strike, joining several others across the province whose schools will not open.
The board has approximately 250 permanent and casual staff that belong to the union, including its educational assistants, custodians, secretaries, early childhood educator, librarians, and CUPE staff at its Catholic Education Centre. The CUPE employees represent about 45 per cent of the board’s staff.
Before and after school programs will also be closed if a deal isn’t reached. The Brockton Child Care and Wooden Hill Child Care Centre will remain open, a letter from Direcor of Education Gary O’Donnell stated.
Regular updates will be provided on the board web page under the “CUPE Work Action Update” section at https://bit.ly/2n1C1pH
The Bluewater District School Board announced on Wednesday that its schools will remain open to students next week in the event of a strike.
CUPE represents about 160 custodial and maintenance staff at the Bluewater board.
The board plans to closely monitor the work action of the CUPE members and a strike contingency plan has been put in place, it said in a letter on Wednesday from Bluewater Director of Education Alana Murray.
“Should circumstances change that impact on the health and safety of our students and staff, we may need to review that decision and will advise you accordingly,” the letter stated. The board will provide updates on its website at www.bwdsb.on.ca
The CUPE members have been without a deal since the end of August.
CUPE has highlighted the millions in cuts by the Conservative government that have resulted in lost services for students and lost jobs for education workers. It said the workers it represents are the lowest paid in the public education system and they face layoffs each summer.
The government has expressed concerns about the amount of sick leave taken by educational workers.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has expressed support for the CUPE members and in the event of a strike is encouraging its own members to join strike lines before and after the school day as an expression of solidarity.
All members, including elementary teachers, occasional teachers, designated early childhood educators, educational support personnel, professional support personnel, and adult literacy instructors, are required to attend to regular work duties as employees of the board during any job action, ETFO said in a news release.