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New talks set, aimed at preventing job action of Ontario education workers

Work-to-rule campaign for Ontario education support workers to start Monday
WATCH ABOVE: Education support workers are set to start a work to rule campaign Monday and the union that represents Ontario high school teachers is using another tactic to put pressure on the government. Travis Dhanraj reports. (Sept. 24, 2019)

TORONTO – Ontario‘s educational workers will head back to the bargaining table this weekend amid preparations for a work-to-rule campaign starting Monday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees said in a statement Wednesday that talks with the province are set to take place Saturday and Sunday.

The news comes the same day the union issued the required five days’ notice to put it in a legal strike position.

READ MORE: Ontario teachers’ union releases bargaining proposals, adds pressure on Ford government

The head of the bargaining unit for the 55,000 custodians, clerical workers and early childhood educators said members are resolved to start their work-to-rule if cuts by the provincial government aren’t reversed.

“If it takes job action to restore these services, then so be it,” Laura Walton said in the statement.

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Contracts for Ontario’s public school teachers and education workers expired Aug. 31, and the major unions are in various stages of bargaining. The talks are happening as the government has ordered school boards to start increasing class sizes, moving to an average of 28 for high schools over four years, up from 22. Class sizes for grades 4 to 8 will increase from 23 to 24.

READ MORE: Ontario education workers represented by CUPE vote overwhelmingly in favour of strike

The government has said that will mean 3,475 fewer teachers in the system over four years, a cut it says will be accomplished by not filling vacancies when teachers quit or retire.

Under CUPE’s planned work-to-rule action, union members would stop working overtime and performing any extra duties.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the government is returning to talks in hopes of reaching a deal with the union.

“We are focusing our efforts on reaching a deal as quickly as possible that provides the stability and certainty parents expect and students deserve,” Lecce said in a statement.

 

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Meanwhile, a school board west of Toronto has warned parents about the possible job action.

Peel District School Board issued a statement Wednesday saying its schools will remain open.

Board staff “are reviewing the job action directive from CUPE provincial to members to determine the impact these will have on school and work site operations, and to learning and working,” the statement said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2019.