File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / oksun70File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / oksun70

Ontario education workers set to strike

After kicking off a work to rule campaign this week, the union representing Ontario education workers says its members are ready to hit the picket lines.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees announced Wednesday that it has provided the required five days notice to begin a full-fledged strike, which would begin on Monday, October 7.

"I'll be frank: we had hoped work-to-rule would force the parties to get together and agree to a deal. But that hasn't happened, and now we're hearing stories that cause us great concern," said Laura Walton, president of CUPE's Ontario School Board Council of Unions, which negotiates centrally on behalf of the union's school board employees.

CUPE represents roughly 55,000 custodians, maintenance workers, clerical workers, educational assistants, early childhood educators, and information technology staff. On Monday, the union began a work to rule campaign that saw members cease all extra duties not specifically outlined in their job descriptions and refuse any overtime hours.

The union is inviting the province and the Council of Trustees Association to return to the bargaining table in hopes of avoiding a walkout. According to Walton, "if there is a deal to be had, CUPE will find it."

Although Walton is hopeful that a deal can be worked out, she says it's clear the union had little choice but to escalate its job action.

"Without any justification whatsoever, some school boards are closing programs and sending workers home. Some boards are paying parents to do the work of CUPE members. Some are asking older students to collect younger students from the school bus. Across the province, boards are cutting services and putting students at risk," she said.

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