OPSEU education workers to walk out in solidarity with CUPE workers planning strike


The Ontario Public Service Employees Union says its 8,000 education workers will walk off the job Friday in solidarity with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, whose 55,000 education workers are set to strike.

OPSEU represents education workers such as educational assistants and early childhood educators at several boards in the province.

Many of boards with staff represented by the union had previously said the CUPE strike would close its schools — including the Peel District School Board and the York Region District School Board, which account for the largest contingent of members.

Two others, in Sudbury and Simcoe County, announced Thursday they would close schools as a result of OPSEU’s Friday’s planned walkout.

OPSEU president JP Hornick said legislation the Ontario government is expected to pass today that would impose a contract on CUPE education workers and ban them from striking is undemocratic.

“Bill 28 isn’t just an attack on education workers’ collective bargaining rights, it is an attack on all workers’ rights,” Hornick said in a statement.

The Toronto District School Board has said in-person learning will be cancelled as long as CUPE workers — such as early childhood educators, educational assistants and custodians — are off the job because it can’t ensure schools will remain safe and clean for students.

Several other boards across the province have said they will have to close schools on Friday because they can’t operate safely without the 55,000 workers.

CUPE says the workers plan to be on strike beyond Friday unless a deal is reached.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he won’t negotiate further unless the union cancels its strike. He says the government “has no choice” but to proceed with its legislation because of CUPE’s strike threat.

The government originally offered raises of two per cent a year for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all others, but says the new, imposed four-year 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 has said that framing is not accurate because the raises actually depend on hourly wages and pay scales, so the majority of workers who earn less than $43,000 in a year wouldn’t get 2.5 per cent.

CUPE has said its workers, which make on average $39,000 a year, are generally the lowest paid in schools and have been seeking annual salary increases of 11.7 per cent.