Education workers' union takes step toward legal strike position

Classroom

A union representing Ontario education workers has taken an initial step toward a legal strike position.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says it has requested what is known as a ``no-board report,'' which starts a countdown toward a potential strike.

CUPE, which represents 55,000 workers such as custodians, clerical staff and educational assistants, says they will be in a legal strike position the week of Sept. 23.

In the meantime, there are more bargaining dates scheduled for Sept. 17 and 18.

Contracts for Ontario's public school teachers and education workers expired Aug. 31, and the major unions are in various but mostly early stages of bargaining.

CUPE members are also in the midst of voting on a strike mandate, with results expected when the process wraps up in two weeks.

The union has previously said its central bargaining priorities are wages, benefits, job security and sick leave.

"At its worst, it could mean full strike, full legal strike where we are off the job," president of Ontario's school board council of unions Laura Walton told NEWSTALK1010. "We successfully held a work-to-rule job action in 2015 that enabled us to successfully negotiate a fair, collective agreement, so we are considering taking that step again."

The edcuation minister released a statement late on Thursday afternoon:

As the school year begins, it is important that parents, students and educators know that I remain on their side, committed to keeping kids in the classroom.

I am disappointed that CUPE has decided to take this action, however, I am pleased that an agreement was reached with CUPE and the school boards to appoint Bill Kaplan as a mediator. Mr. Kaplan is a highly respected, senior labour mediator. I believe that with the assistance of Mr. Kaplan, we can resolve our differences at the bargaining table so that students can remain in class where they belong. My team is ready to continue meeting to negotiate a deal that puts our students first and provides the predictability our parents deserve.

We continue to call on all parties to reach a deal in good faith, as soon as possible, to provide confidence and predictability to parents, students, and educators alike."