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Peterborough public, Catholic schools to close if CUPE education workers strike, withdraw services

A union representing 55,000 Ontario education workers has set a strike date of Nov. 3 if a new contract is not reached. NSD

Both school boards represents schools in the Peterborough area say they will  close its schools if education workers go on strike in early November.

CUPE, which represents 55,000 clerical workers, custodians, early childhood educators and librarians, is looking for an 11-per cent increase in wages.

Mediated contract talks between the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario government broke down last week as a Nov. 3 strike position deadline approaches. Talks are scheduled to resume on Nov. 1, according to Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions.

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

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In an email to parents and guards on Friday afternoon, KPRDSB’s director of education Rita Russo says the school board is concerned about the possibility of a strike and says if there is a full withdrawal of service by CUPE employees, the board will close its schools to students.

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“We appreciate that the potential of closing our schools is difficult news, and not a decision we make lightly, but the reality is that without CUPE education workers on-site, we could not ensure safe conditions for all our students,” stated Russo.

Russo said the decision to close schools is based on the following considerations:

  • supervision of students
  • medical support and care for all students
  • safe operation of water and sanitation systems, including required water flushing
  • conditions of school buildings and classrooms
  • overall safety and security

Russo noted school boards must be given five days’ notice of any possible strike action.

“If we receive notice from CUPE about pending strike action in the coming days, we will share further information at that time,” she said.

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The school board represents 86 public schools in Peterborough, Peterborough County, Northumberland County and parts of Durham region.

On Friday in a statement to Global News Peterborough, Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce says the province is committed to keeping students in the classroom.

“CUPE has all but confirmed they will strike if they do not get a nearly 50 per cent increase in compensation, walking out on students unless they get their $19 billion demand,” he stated.

“While this union puts their own interests ahead of kids, we will ensure Ontario students remain in class.”

Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic District School Board

Following the public school board’s announcement, the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic District School Board also said its schools will close if a new agreement is not reached and CUPE has a full withdrawal of services.

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The school board says it employees about 800 CUPE members.

The board echoed the same considerations as the KPRDSB for a decision to close schools.

“At this point we are simply trying to be proactive and give families as much notice as possible to prepare for all contingencies,” the board stated. “Again, we remain hopeful that an agreement can be reached next week and that a strike can be averted.

The Catholic school board has 36 schools in Peterborough, Peterborough County, Northumberland County and parts of Durham region.

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