Upper Canada District School Board, (UCDSB) employees who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 5678 are taking part in a work action in Cornwall. Thompson Goddard Photo

CORNWALL – A prolonged work action between CUPE school employees and the province has been averted.

Last Fri., Nov. 4, Upper Canada District School Board, (UCDSB) employees who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) began a day of work action in Cornwall, in response to a stalemate in provincial and CUPE contract negotiations.

The province’s decision to use the “notwithstanding clause” to declare the work action illegal, prompted unions from across the province threatening a general strike.

On Tuesday, the province announced it was willing to back away from its use of the controversial “notwithstanding clause” if CUPE would come back to the bargaining table and not continue its work action.

CUPE represents several different employee groups working at the school board including custodial/ maintenance staff, school office and clerical staff, educational assistants, early childhood educators, library workers, and information technology staff.

Ontario School Board Council of Unions Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a prepared statement, “CUPE has agreed to withdraw their strike action and come back to the negotiating table. In return, at the earliest opportunity, we will revoke Bill 28 in its entirety and be at the table, so that kids can return to the classroom after two difficult years. As we have always said and called for, kids need to be back in the classroom, where they belong.”

As a result of the province’s change in attitude, the Ontario education workers work action ended on Tuesday with children going back to school.

The Upper Canada School Board sent a letter to parents on Mon., Nov. 7 stating: “The provincial government and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have announced today that they will continue to negotiate a contract. CUPE confirmed that members will reinstate services and return to schools, starting tomorrow –Tues., Nov. 8.”

Therefore, our schools will reopen to students again tomorrow (Tues., Nov. 8) and classes will resume as usual.

We know that this labour action has caused disruptions for families, and we hope that an agreement can be reached between CUPE and the provincial government soon.

Premier Ford’s government had passed the “Keeping Students in Class Act”, (Bill 28) on Nov. 3, making it illegal for education workers to strike. On Mon., Nov. 7 the government agreed to rescind Bill 28.

Laura Walton, the president of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions, made a statement on Mon., Nov. 7. She said, “We have received, and can confirm that the premier will introduce and support legislation that will repeal Bill 28 in its entirety.”