Education workers ending walkout as Ontario pledges to repeal law

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Under pressure, Prime Minister Doug Ford announced that he would repeal a law requiring 55,000 workers to enter into contracts in the Canadian province.

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The union, which represents about 55,000 striking education workers in Canada’s most populous province, said it would end the strike after Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised to repeal a controversial return-to-work law if the union agreed to end the strike.

Laura Walton, president of the Ontario School Board Trade Union Council of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said on Monday that workers “are going to fail.” [their] protest venues starting tomorrow.”

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“We hope this gesture will be met with the same good faith from this government in a new proposal at the negotiating table as soon as possible,” Walton said during a press conference, adding that workers would return to schools on Tuesday morning.

Custodians, service and library staff, secretaries and other educational support staff left work Friday after the Ontario government passed a law forcing them to enter into contracts and forbidding them from striking.

Ontario has invoked a controversial section of Canada’s constitution known as the proviso despite temporarily suspending sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and preempting legal challenges to the legislation known as Bill 28.

This drew widespread condemnation and anger from human rights groups, who said that “everyone’s rights are at stake”.

Ford on Monday said his right-wing government would be prepared to repeal the law and its use of the “despite this” clause, “but only if CUPE agrees to show a similar gesture of goodwill by ending the strike and allowing our children to return to class.” . .

“Let’s get back to the table and agree on a fair deal,” the prime minister told reporters.

Ford and Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce later welcomed CUPE’s decision to end the strike and resume negotiations.

“In turn, at the first opportunity, we will completely withdraw Bill 28 and be at the negotiating table so that children can return to the classroom after two difficult years,” he said. Lecce said in a statement.

The four-year contract imposed on the workers provided for a raise of 1.5 to 2.5%, far less than the union demanded to cover the rising cost of living.

More than seven in ten Ontarians said they want the Ford government to make a fair deal to end the strike, according to a recent poll. [Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images]

The legislation also provided for a $2,968 (CAD$4,000) daily fine for striking workers, which the union said it would fight or pay if necessary.

“Let’s not forget why this all started,” Walton said. “It started because the Ford government didn’t want to pay workers, the lowest paid educators in this province, a living wage.”

The workers’ protest has received support across Canada, with local media reporting that CUPE is considering a general strike next weekend, pressuring Ford to restart negotiations with the union.

An Abacus Data Poll published Sunday found that 62 percent of Ontarians blamed the province for the strike that forced the closure of hundreds of in-person schools.

The poll showed that more than seven in 10 residents said they wanted the Ford government to make a fair deal to end the strike, and 78 percent said the average salary for Ontario educators was $28,900 (CAD$39,000), according to CUPE. not enough.

“These workers … deserve an agreement that has been freely negotiated that will keep them out of poverty and allow them to meet the needs of their students,” Walton said.

Toronto District School Board, the largest school board in Canada, said all of its schools will reopen to in-person instruction on Tuesday.

Credit: www.aljazeera.com /

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