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Mediated contract negotiations between government and CUPE break down ahead of strike deadline

Click to play video: '‘It is the minister who insists on using our children as pawns’: CUPE rep slams Lecce as negotiations break down'
‘It is the minister who insists on using our children as pawns’: CUPE rep slams Lecce as negotiations break down
WATCH: 'It is the minister who insists on using our children as pawns': CUPE rep slams Lecce as negotiations break down – Oct 19, 2022

Mediated talks between the Ford government and the union representing education support workers have broken down, setting the stage for a possible strike in early November.

The negotiations, which were being refereed by a third-party mediator, broke late Tuesday and reached an impasse on Wednesday morning, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.

The source said mediator, Bill Kaplan, determined the two sides were “too far apart” on salary, pensions and benefits and that both sides were “entrenched” in their positions.

Click to play video: 'Parents bracing for possible strike of Ontario education workers'
Parents bracing for possible strike of Ontario education workers

With the two sides now at an impasse, parents are left wondering what this means for the school system after strikes and the pandemic-interrupted learning during every academic year since 2019.

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The mediator has scheduled another bargaining date on Nov. 1, just days before the union will enter into a legal strike position on Nov. 3. The union. however, hasn’t outlined its plans.

Click to play video: '‘It is the minister who insists on using our children as pawns’: CUPE rep slams Lecce as negotiations break down'
‘It is the minister who insists on using our children as pawns’: CUPE rep slams Lecce as negotiations break down

“We tried work to rule with this government and it meant nothing to them,” said Laura Walton with CUPE who suggested only a full withdrawal of services could put enough pressure on government.

In an interview at Queen’s Park, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he believes that CUPE is “seriously considering ” a strike but indicated the government has plans to prevent possible job action.

“The commitment making to parents and the Premier has made is that we will work hard to stay at the table to get a deal,” Lecce said. ” And If CUPE … decides to impose a strike on children and their parents the government will act to ensure kids stay in school.”

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Lecce refused to elaborate on whether the government is preparing back-to-work legislation, or is willing to impose a contract on the union.

Walton called it a “divisive narrative” and said it’s the government that’s using children “as pawns” and called on the government to change their contract offer.

CUPE, which represents 55,000 clerical workers, custodians, early childhood educators and librarians, asked the government for an 11 per cent increase in wages citing the high cost of living, and historically low pay.

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The Ministry of Education countered with a 2 per cent increase for employees earning less than $40,000 a year, and a 1.25 per cent increase for union members who make more than $40,000.

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