Schools will remain closed Monday in Brampton and Mississauga if education workers’ strike continues indefinitely


Published November 4, 2022 at 2:03 pm

With tens of thousands of education workers indicating that they have no intention of going back to work until a deal with the Province is reached, school boards in Brampton and Mississauga are preparing for longer-than-anticipated school closures.

The Peel District School Board (PDSB), which operates public schools in Mississauga, Brampton, and Caledon, says that schools will remain closed as long as the ongoing CUPE strike continues. 

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB), which operates Catholic schools in the region, also confirmed via email that its schools will remain closed until the strike is resolved. 

Today (Nov. 4), 55,000 education workers, including custodians, educational assistants and early childhood educators, walked off the job following the cessation of mediation between the Province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). 

About 8,000 OPSEU workers, many of whom work in Peel schools, also walked off the job today in support of CUPE workers. 

While the Ontario government has passed legislation that would impose a contract on CUPE education workers and ban them from striking, the union has said it will remain on strike for an indefinite amount of time. Other teachers’ unions have expressed solidarity with CUPE workers.

The government’s legislation includes fines for violating the prohibition on strikes of up to $4,000 per employee per day — potentially totalling up to $220 million for all 55,000 workers — and up to $500,000 per day for the union.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has said the government intends to pursue the penalties, while CUPE has said it is pursuing legal advice but will pay the fines if it has to.

On its website, the PDSB–which closed all schools today due to the walkout–says students will not be in class on Monday, Nov. 7 and possibly beyond that date. 

“In view of public declarations from CUPE of their intent to engage in labour disruption beyond Friday, November 4, 2022, we are preparing for the possibility of an extended disruption to in-person learning,” the board said in a letter posted to its website

“The health, safety, and well being of your child(ren) is our highest priority, so continuing asynchronous remote learning on Monday, November 7 is the best way to ensure students are safe and healthy.”

In its letter, the board says that students will transition to synchronous online learning starting Tuesday, Nov. 8, should a resolution not be reached. 

“To ensure all students have access to the technology required for synchronous online learning, students who need a device should contact their school to arrange for a board issued device to be picked up.”

In a bulletin posted on its website, the DPCDSB said that along with schools, all childcare centres and before and after school programs will be closed and all athletic events will be postponed.  

On Nov. 3, Lecce said he won’t negotiate further unless the union cancels its strike. He says the government “has no choice” but to proceed with its controversial legislation because of CUPE’s strike threat. The law also bans strikes and invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to pre-emptively protect it from being struck down as a result of notwithstanding potential constitutional challenges.

In a statement, Lecce called the strike “illegal.”

“All along, we made a promise: to do whatever it takes to keep kids in class. We will keep that promise. After demanding a nearly 50 per cent increase in compensation, CUPE threatened to strike. Since then, we’ve been at the table. Right up to the last minute, we’ve made good faith efforts to reach a fair deal. But all along, CUPE refused to take strikes and disruption off the table. Even today, CUPE refused to take strikes and disruption off the table.”

“I want to make something very clear. If CUPE continues with their strike, they will be breaking the law.”

Today, Lecce said the government asked the Ontario Labour Relations Board to declare the ongoing strike action illegal. 

“Immediately following proclamation of the Keeping Students in Class Act, we filed a submission to the Ontario Labour Relations Board in response to CUPE’s illegal strike action. Proceedings started last night and will continue today,” he said in a statement.

“Nothing matters more right now than getting all students back in the classroom and we will use every tool available to us to do so.”

The government originally offered raises of two per cent a year for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all others, but says the new, imposed four-year deal would give 2.5 per cent annual raises to workers making less than $43,000 and 1.5 per cent raises for all others.

CUPE has said that framing is not accurate because the raises actually depend on hourly wages and pay scales, so the majority of workers who earn less than $43,000 in a year wouldn’t get 2.5 per cent.

CUPE has said its workers, which make on average $39,000 a year, are generally the lowest paid in schools and have been seeking annual salary increases of 11.7 per cent.

CUPE has not laid out any specifics that would lead to them ending the walkout. That means schools could be closed for an indefinite amount of time.

The union has advised parents to make alternate childcare arrangements into next week.

With files from The Canadian Press

Editor’s note: This article has been updated from its previous version to include more information

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