CUPE to stage provincewide protest Friday in response to Ontario's ban on strike

TORONTO — The Canadian Union of Public Employees says its approximately 55,000 education workers will stage a provincewide protest Friday, meaning they will be off the job despite the Ontario government tabling legislation to impose contracts and ban a strike.

Laura Walton, president of CUPE's Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said whether workers continue to protest after Friday "will be left up to what happens."

The Ontario government introduced legislation Monday to impose a contract on education workers and avert a strike that was set to start Friday.

CUPE has said they will explore every avenue to fight the bill, but the government said it intends to use the notwithstanding clause to keep the eventual law in force despite any constitutional challenges.

“CUPE has now made the decision to strike, putting their own self interest ahead of Ontario’s nearly two million children, who deserve to stay in class learning," Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement.

"We are delivering on our promise to parents that our government will do whatever it takes to keep students in class, so they can catch up and get back to the basics of learning."

The notwithstanding clause allows the legislature to override portions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year term.

The government had been offering raises of two per cent a year for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all others, and the education minister says the new deal would give 2.5 per cent annual raises to workers making less than $43,000 and 1.5 per cent raises for all others.

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn said workers were in a legal strike position as of this Thursday and they will take a stand for public education.

"If that bill passes before Friday it doesn’t matter," he said. "If they say it’s illegal to strike then we will be on a political protest."

Government House Leader Paul Calandra said the legislature would be in session Tuesday at 5 a.m. in order to speed up passage of the legislation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2022.

The Canadian Press