Education unions bargaining across the province
By Sue Tiffin
Work-to-rule began Sept. 30 for CUPE members which includes educational assistants clerical staff custodians and library staff across the province including the Trillium Lakelands District School Board after two additional days of contract negotiations over this past weekend between the union and Doug Ford’s government failed to see a deal reached.
An email sent to CUPE local members on Sept. 25 outlined the work-to-rule instruction documents noting central bargaining “has proven to be very difficult.”
Under work-to-rule job action CUPE members are asked among other things to not perform the duties of any other member not attend training sessions on unpaid time not volunteer to work at a safe pace not answer emails texts or calls from supervisors outside of work hours and take breaks and lunch with other CUPE members.
Custodial members are asked among other things to not supervise students not complete ground maintenance including grass cutting and shovelling not pick up garbage outside not use personal tools and equipment and not clean any ministry unfunded areas such as hallways office areas and gymnasiums.
Clerical and secretarial members are asked among other things to not supervise children not clear jams or perform repairs on photocopiers or laminators not update the school website or social media pages not administer medication and not participate in school functions outside of work hours.
Educational assistants are asked among other things to not buy supplies with their own money to supervise children in their assignment only to not perform safety procedures on the bus including harnessing or buckling in that is the responsibility of the bus driver and to not prepare materials of any kind for class.
Across the province CUPE represents 55000 education workers and bargaining has been conducted by CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions.
“We’ve always said that any job action we take will have at its heart the protection of education services for students” said Laura Walton president of CUPE’s OSBCU in a Sept. 25 press release. “And this year we’ve seen those services decimated: school libraries closed over students’ lunch breaks because there aren’t enough library workers; school cleaning cut to the point that custodians are told they can only vacuum kindergarten classrooms once a week; eight or nine students with special needs now supported by a single education assistant; communications with parents affected because some schools have lost their school secretaries. If it takes job action to restore these services then so be it. This is something worth fighting for.”
Earlier this month CUPE locals around the province voted 93 per cent for job action. Locally the bargaining unit representing office clerical technical and educational assistants voted 97.4 per cent in favour of a strike mandate and custodial and maintenance staff voted 98.8 per cent in favour.
In a Sept. 29 evening press release from Stephen Lecce Minister of Education he said: “It is deeply disappointing that CUPE has decided to end talks this weekend and proceed with a partial withdrawal of services despite a limited number of outstanding items at the table. The Crown and the employers tabled a reasonable offer and expanded our offer through the negotiations with one interest in mind: landing a deal that keeps our kids in class. We have offered proposals to address compensation job security and funding for additional staffing. A key issue that remains is resolving rising absenteeism rates and the impact that has on students and schools.”
Lecce’s press release states negotiations will continue and that additional bargaining dates “to bring everyone back to the table so that we can ensure our kids remain in class” have been requested.
“During this period of job action student safety will remain the utmost priority – a position I know we all share. We stand with parents working to protect our students’ futures invest in their potential and ensure they remain in the classroom.”
At press time contract talks for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario are ongoing with strike votes beginning Sept. 30 continuing into October. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation began substantive bargaining on Sept. 30. A strike vote has not been taken. Negotiations are ongoing for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association with the union not having taken a strike vote yet.
For more information regarding labour action in TLDSB visit www.tldsb.ca/labour-updates.