Potential strike by Ontario education workers to close Waterloo Catholic schools

An empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, March 23, 2020. Newfoundland and Labrador's plan for the upcoming school year aims to maximize in-class attendance with the option for schools to return to remote learning if COVID-19 risk increases. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

While some Ontario education support workers could be heading to the picket lines as early as Friday, that won’t affect students at Waterloo public schools but it will close Catholic schools in the area.

“The WCDSB has more than 1,200 staff represented by CUPE, in multiple different roles in schools,” a letter addressed to parents from the Waterloo Catholic District School Board read.

“Given such a large number of potentially absent staff, should a strike occur, it will not be possible to safely open and operate our schools.”

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The letter said that the board will move to remote learning if the schools are closed.

“This week, you will be asked to complete a brief survey to indicate any technology device needs your children may have,” it noted.

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On Sunday, the Waterloo Region District School Board announced that if there is a potential job action, its schools would not be affected.

Click to play video: 'CUPE serves province with strike notice for Ontario education workers'
CUPE serves province with strike notice for Ontario education workers

“It is important to note that there are no Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) employees who are members of the CUPE bargaining group,” a letter to parents read.

“As a result, these interruptions will not impact the day-to-day experience of WRDSB students at school, or their transportation. Students will continue to be supported in all aspects of their learning.”

The Ontario government was served notice by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 55,000 support workers, that a “full withdrawal of services” will take place on Nov. 4 if the two sides can’t agree on a new contract.

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The union will be in a legal position to strike on Thursday but the two sides are expected to meet for mediation for three days this week, Tuesday through Thursday.

The Ford government is expected to introduce legislation on Monday to impose a four-year contract on thousands of education support workers in order to avoid a strike — a move that will likely trigger a court challenge by the union.

— with files from Global News’ Colin D’Mello & Isaac Callan 

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