English language schools in Eastern Ontario to remain remote Monday

BROCKVILLE/KEMPTVILLE — The region's English language school boards will be closed Monday, forcing students on to remote learning.

Since November 4, the Canadian Union of Public Employees have been off the job in what the union says is a political protest over the Ontario government's passage of Bill 28. The bill banned the union's 55,000 employees from striking, and imposed a four year contract. Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, known as the Notwithstanding Clause was evoked by the government.

In a message to families November 6, the Upper Canada District School Board said that schools will be closed November 7 and that students will learn from home remotely. Mo additional closure days were released by the board, however sources within the union and board tell The Leader that schools will likely be closed until Wednesday at the earliest.

The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario has also closed its schools and switched to remote learning. CDSBEO officials wrote on Sunday that it's schools will be shuttered indefinitely.

Both boards say that without the CUPE represented custodians, educational workers, and other personnel, the schools cannot be safely open for learning.

The union has been without a contract since the end of August. Negotiations stalled over wages, with the union asking an 11 per cent increase for its workers. The government offering a two-tiered set of increases at 2.5 per cent for workers earning less than $43,000 per year and 1.5 per cent for those earning over that figure.

Over one million students are currently out of school due to the labour issue. Following passage of Bill 28, the government filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board to stop the labour action.

The labour action and government's preceding legislation is unpopular with Ontarians, more so on the government's handling of the education crisis.

A survey released November 6 by polling firm Abacus Data said that among those surveyed by the firm, 62 per cent blamed Premier Doug Ford and his government for the current situation, and 71 per cent want the government to negotiate a fair deal with education workers.

Almost half (48 per cent) of those surveyed said they supported other public sector unions joining the labour action while 32 per cent said they were against such action. Twenty per cent answered unsure.

On the use by the Ford Government of the Notwithstanding Clause, 50 per cent answered that they opposed its use.

While the government's handling of the situation is unpopular, 57 per cent of those surveyed said they are more likely to vote for the PC Party or that their support for the party has not changed, if an election was held now.

The OLRB concluded three days of hearings Sunday around 6 p.m. on the legality of the strike action.

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader