Thousands of education workers in Mississauga and Brampton to join protest of contract legislation

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Published November 1, 2022 at 8:18 am

Some 2,500 education workers in Mississauga and Brampton are set to walk off the job for a protest on Friday following the Ontario PC government’s plans to quash a strike.

A bill introduced Monday (Oct. 31) by the Ontario PC government would impose contracts on approximately 55,000 education workers in the province — including librarians, custodians and early childhood educators — and ban them from going on strike.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents the support staff workers, has said it plans to fight the legislation, which has prompted workers to plan a one-day protest across Ontario on Friday.

For Mississauga and Brampton, this means approximately 2,500 education staff won’t be at work during the protest.

“We respect the work that is carried out each day by CUPE workers to maintain safe and caring learning environments for students, and we respect the collective bargaining process in which unions are currently engaged in with the Province of Ontario,” the Peel District School Board (PDSB) said in a release.

“We remain hopeful that the unions and provincial government will be able to reach an agreement that avoids a strike and any impact on you and our classrooms,” the board said.

The PDSB did not say if schools would close on Friday, but the Toronto District School Board has said it has “no option” but to close for in-person learning without the important services of support staff employees.

CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn said Premier Doug Ford and the Conservative party’s negotiating style amounts to “bully tactics,” and said education workers are prepared to go on strike Friday, despite massive financial penalties.

The legislation sets out a strike ban with fines of up to $4,000 per employee per day and $500,000 for the union, with the union promising to foot the bill for any such fines.

The Ontario PC government’s offer to education workers consists of a wage increase of 2.5 per cent for employees earning less than $25.95 per hour, and 1.5 per cent for those earning more – an offer the union calls “inadequate” as a protection against job cuts.

The offer does not include paid prep time for education workers who work directly with students, and a cut to the sick leave/short-term disability plan.

The Ontario government says it intends to invoke the notwithstanding clause to prevent a strike, which gives provincial legislatures or Parliament the ability, through the passage of a law, to override certain portions of the charter for a five-year term.

The PDSB said it is monitoring the situation and will be updating parents on the board’s website.

“We understand not having concrete information is difficult for your family planning. We are monitoring the situation, and as it unfolds, we will share with you our next steps on a daily basis,” the board said.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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