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ONTARIO: Education workers, province at contract impasse: union

Union may request a 'no board' report, indicating a deal can't be reached; Education Minister calls CUPE's demands 'unreasonable'
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Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce speaks with media following the Speech from the Throne at Queen's Park in Toronto, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. A union representing 55,000 Ontario education workers such as custodians, librarians and early childhood educators says it has reached an impasse in bargaining with the government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Lahodynskyj

TORONTO — A union representing 55,000 Ontario education workers such as custodians, librarians and early childhood educators says it has reached an impasse in bargaining with the government.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says if there is no real movement by the end of the day they will request what's known as a "no board" report, which indicates a deal can't be reached.

If a conciliator then issues a "no board" report, it sets a 17-day countdown to the union being in a legal strike position.

Laura Walton, president of CUPE's Ontario School Boards Council of Unions, didn't say if education workers would engage at that point in a full strike or a work-to-rule campaign. But she noted that there are two more days of talks scheduled this month - Oct. 17 and 18.

"If that's the pressure that they need in order to come to the table, then that's what's going to happen," Walton said in a press conference.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the government is at the table ready to reach a fair deal, and he has called CUPE's demands unreasonable.

"After being back in school for a month, catching up on their learning, I can’t imagine parents and kids are sitting down this weekend giving thanks to education unions’ relentless pursuit of classroom disruptions," he wrote in a statement.

Lecce also wrote that the government "will ensure children remain in class. Period." That echoes a line-in-the-sand sentiment from Ontario Premier Doug Ford earlier this week. When asked about the use of back-to-work legislation in the event of a CUPE strike, Ford told education workers: "Don't force my hand."

CUPE is looking for annual increases of 11.7 per cent and the government in response has offered raises of two per cent a year for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all other workers.

Since then, neither CUPE nor the government has made any new proposals on wages.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2022.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press