VIDEO: Talks Resume Friday to Avert School Strike


The union representing education workers in Ontario says talks will resume Friday afternoon in an effort to avert a strike on Monday.

The 55,000 workers began a work-to-rule campaign this week to pressure the province to reach a contract agreement.

The Greater Essex County District School Board is working on contingency plans in case of a work stoppage by CUPE members.

At the local public school board, Canadian Union of Public Employees members consist of 550 custodians, maintenance, clerical and information technology staff.

School board spokesperson Scott Scantlebury says the board is waiting to see exactly what will happen before releasing any details about the contingency plan.

"We are hopeful that bargaining is going to continue and that they can secure a settlement before that Monday deadline," he says. 

As of now, it is a waiting game.

"We are gonna wait until we see exactly what is going to happen on Monday, but we will get information out to our school communities as soon as we possibly can about what is going to happen on Monday."

Scantlebury says there are too many unknown scenarios to determine what will happen on Monday.

"I'm not going to speculate right now on that, one of our major concerns is to have uncertainty, we want our school communities to be certain what is going to happen."

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board released the following statement Wednesday afternoon: 

"Parents should also know that the safety of their children is our primary concern. We will be monitoring the bargaining situation closely and will communicate our intentions regarding a contingency plan for our schools as soon as we have a clearer sense of whether the union will indeed move to full-scale job action.

At this time, it is very important to allow the process to continue. We remain hopeful that the two sides will return to the bargaining table and that a resolution can be reached."

CUPE local 1358 represents 565 employees including educational assistants and early childhood educators.

Union President Darlene Sawchuk says one thing is for certain on Monday. 

"If there is not a collective agreement, a tentative collective agreement, we will be on the picket line," she says. 

Sawchuk says the funding formula has been eroding through the years and workers are having to do more with less and at some point, 'we have to put the brakes on it.'

As for teachers, Sawchuk expects they will be in the classroom but will show their support in other ways.

"They can show their support in other ways by not doing our work inside the schools, by wearing purple on Wednesdays to show their support to their CUPE co-workers."

Sawchuk says she is trying very hard to be hopeful that the province makes a valiant effort to get back to the table and that there is real meaningful negotiatiions.