On the evening before 55,000 educational workers initiate job action across the province, Global News has obtained a letter sent to school boards from Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
In the letter, Lecce reiterates familiar government messaging about the labour dispute and sternly warns employees about maintaining student safety.
“During this period of job action, student safety will remain the utmost priority. I know this is a position we all share, and I expect that no CUPE member will ever undertake any action that would jeopardize the safety and security of any student in the province.”
Clerical staff, school custodians and educational assistants will start a work-to-rule campaign Monday morning.
On Friday, instructions from CUPE were sent to members. The instructions include office staff not supervising students and educational assistants not remaining in classrooms unless accompanied by a teacher.
The letter, which was also addressed to trustees associations, also states: “I have instructed my bargaining team to reach out to the mediator to offer further bargaining dates to CUPE, as soon as possible. We remain available to negotiate at any time.”
Sunday evening, CUPE released a statement regarding the breakdown in talks.
“What the provincial government and the trustees’ associations has done is highly irresponsible,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions.
“The province and the CTA had it within their power to reach a fair deal that protects services for students. But instead, they chose to disrupt students’ education by refusing to see the deal that was there to be made. Now they have left millions of students, parents and families out in the cold.”
A source with the union told Global News that CUPE believes the government is fear-mongering and that no safety concerns will arise.
WATCH (Sept. 25, 2019): Possible job action by education workers overshadows Ford cabinet meeting Wednesday
The source also said Lecce has been tone-deaf to the concerns of the union: “He hasn’t really been listening thus far, and we hope that changes.”
“It’s a little insulting for the education minister to suggest that they have been bargaining in good faith considering that his government introduced a wage freeze for all public sector workers in the spring,” said a TDSB employee that will be affected by the job action, who was not authorized to speak publicly, Sunday night.
“This legislation was designed to circumvent the impending negotiation process in the education sector.”
The employee also raised concerns about the likelihood of a deal moving forward: “The Ontario Progressive Conservative government has been bargaining in bad faith and has been since before bargaining began.”
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