“The government blinked.” Union to end Ontario education tour after Ford vows to scrap strike law
A union representing about 55,000 Ontario education workers who walked off the job Friday said protest sites will be “collapsed” starting Tuesday and workers will return after Premier Doug Ford said he would rescind legislation that mandated is a contract and forbids them to go on strike.
That means school will be back to work for now.
Representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said at a news conference Monday that Ford had put his commitment in writing and that both sides would resume contract negotiations. Leaders of many other public and private sector unions were also present.
A statement from Education Minister Stephen Leche confirmed the government would repeal Bill 28 “in its entirety”. The law included a repeal clause to bypass any constitutional challenge to the legislation. This clause allows legislatures to override parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for five years.
“CUPE has agreed to call off their strike and return to the negotiating table. In return, at the earliest opportunity, we will fully repeal Bill 28 and be at the table so that children can return to the classroom after two difficult years. Leche said.
A state spokeswoman told CBC News on Monday that government officials will introduce legislation to repeal Bill 28 on Nov. 14 and “plan to get back to the table as soon as possible.”
The legislature is not currently in session, so MPs would have had to be recalled early for the law to be repealed this week.
Earlier in the day, Ford said he was willing to repeal the law, but only if CUPE completed its walkout, which has closed hundreds of schools for in-person instruction across the state.
WATCH |: Ford appeals to CUPE to stop protest against Bill 28;
The decision of the Labor Council is awaited
Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Union Council, said she hopes the union’s “good faith” gesture to halt its walkout will be met with similar good faith by the government at the negotiating table.
CUPE members walked off the job despite a law prohibiting them from doing so, and the government took them to the Ontario Labor Relations Board over the legality of the industrial action. A verdict is still pending.
Walton said CUPE education workers will return to work Tuesday, although individual school boards will have to decide when schools closed by the protest will reopen. He added that CUPE workers are technically still on a legal strike.
“We have to give five days’ notice,” Walton said. “But we’re not going into it with our eyes set on getting the real deal.”
So far, no date has been set for returning to the bargaining table.
Several Ontario school boards, including the Toronto District School Board and the York District School Board, say they plan to reopen for in-person instruction on Tuesday. Parents should check their school board website for the latest version in this regard.
CUPE national president Mark Hancock said Bill 28 was a “regressive attack that united the labor movement like never before” and praised education workers, 70 percent of whom are women, for their commitment to the protest.
“They took the Ford government and the government blinked,” Hancock said. “We have shown that when we are attacked, our movement is strong and we will stand up for each other.”
“When you come for one of us, you come for all of us,” added JP. Hornick, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
“Workers, united, will shut down this state when necessary.”
Ford says the government has been “left with no choice” on Bill 28.
Speaking earlier, Ford said he had no regrets about passing Bill 28 and that his government was “left with no choice”. He added that the threat of a CUPE strike after two years of pandemic-related learning disruption required “unprecedented solutions”.
Both the government and CUPE accused the other side of walking away from the bargaining table.
The government originally proposed a two percent annual raise for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 percent for everyone else, but the four-year contract mandated by Bill 28 would give workers making less than $43,000 and $1.5 a year more. : a cent increase for all others.
CUPE said the range is imprecise because the raises actually depend on hourly wages and salary scales, so most workers who make less than $43,000 a year will not get the 2.5 percent.
CUPE says its workers, who make an average of $39,000 a year, are generally the lowest paid in schools and have been demanding an 11.7 percent annual pay rise. The union said it had more than halved its wage offer in a counteroffer it submitted to the government last week and had also made “significant” moves in other areas.
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