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What you need to know as Ontario education workers set to return to work

Click to play video: 'Ontario premier vows to repeal strike law, CUPE to end education walkout'
Ontario premier vows to repeal strike law, CUPE to end education walkout
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario premier vows to repeal strike law, CUPE to end education walkout – Nov 7, 2022

The Ontario government announced on Monday that it would revoke a controversial piece of legislation that imposed a contract on some 55,000 education workers who walked off the job on Friday.

As a result, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents the workers, said its members would end their strike action and return to school on Tuesday.

What does this mean and what happens next? Here’s a closer look at what’s going on.

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WHY WERE CUPE MEMBERS STRIKING?

CUPE members, including custodians, educational assistants, administrative staff in schools, librarians and bus drivers, walked off the job on Friday after mediated talks with the Ford government ended on Thursday without a new deal.

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According to CUPE, the mediator called off the talks on Thursday, saying the two sides were too far apart.

The Ontario government — in a bid to block strike action — tabled and passed a piece of back-to-work legislation, known as Bill 28, which used the controversial notwithstanding clause in order to guard against constitutional challenges.

The legislation included fines of up to $4,000 per employee per day for those found guilty of violating the prohibition on strikes and fines up to $500,000 a day for the union.

CUPE members began protesting on Friday. Members of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union also took part in the protest “in solidarity.”

As a result of the labour action, several school boards across Ontario were forced to close to in-person learning on Friday. Many of the closures extended into Monday as workers continued to strike.

STRIKE ACTION ENDS

Speaking to reporters Monday morning, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government would rescind Bill 28 if CUPE members ended their strike action and returned to work.

Shortly after, Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, announced the union would be collapsing its protest sites and would be returning to work on Tuesday.

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Walton said the decision was made after the union received — in writing — confirmation from the Ontario government that it would rescind Bill 28.

Click to play video: 'Ontario Premier Ford willing to repeal education worker law if CUPE agrees to end walkout'
Ontario Premier Ford willing to repeal education worker law if CUPE agrees to end walkout

WHEN WILL BILL 28 BE REVOKED?

In a statement Monday, Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce said the government plans to revoke Bill 28 “in its entirety” at “the earliest opportunity.”

In order to revoke the bill, the Ontario legislature would need to vote on new legislation.

A senior government source told Global News they plan to rescind Bill 28 — or begin the process — on Nov. 14.

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Speaking at a press conference Monday, Walton said the union is “waiting now” to return to the bargaining table to work out a “fair deal” for its members.

“We hope that this gesture is met with the same good faith by this government in a new proposal at the bargaining table as soon as possible. And I will be clear we’re here waiting right now. The time is ticking,” Walton said.

COULD WORKERS STRIKE AGAIN?

CUPE remains in a legal strike position.

This means if negotiations fall apart, CUPE would need to give five days’ notice if it intended to strike again.

Walton said though that the union has its “eyes on getting a real deal” for its members when negotiations resume.

According to Walton, when talks begin again, CUPE will continue to seek a flat-rate wage increase for its members.

“Percentage increases further the disparity between low-wage earners and high-wage earners, which just further drives inequity in our province,” she said during the press conference Monday. “It needs to stop.”

“So, we’re going to be back at the table, asking for our flat rate wage increase yet again. There will not be a percentage,” she continued.

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In a tweet Monday afternoon, the OBSCU-CSCSO said its bargaining team will “be at the table” Tuesday morning.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SCHOOLS?

Several school boards have announced they will re-open to in-person learning beginning on Tuesday.

Read more: Toronto-area boards set to re-open schools Tuesday as CUPE members return to work

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In the Toronto-area for example, the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board, the Peel District School Board, the Durham District School Board and the Durham Catholic District School Board have each announced they will welcome students and staff back on Tuesday.

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-with files from Global News’ Isaac Callan

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