Last Minute Talks To Try To Avoid School Support Staff Strike

SchoolGeneric

Last-minute contract talks to try to prevent a strike by 55,000 school support staff across Ontario, including many here in Renfrew County, will happen on Friday afternoon, as questions continue to swirl about the impact a strike would have locally.

The union representing the workers has given notice they'll go on strike on Monday if no deal is reached. The notice was given only 48 hours after the union began a work-to-rule campaign which included taking a step back from various tasks in schools.

Talks are set to resume at 4:30 on Friday afternoon, with the aim of reaching a deal over the weekend.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce told CTV Morning Live today that he's happy talks are resuming.

"We'll meet Friday, and through the weekend, with a mission on getting a deal", Lecce said.

"The critical priority for me is making this about the kids.  I don't think they should be the collateral damage in this.  I don't think they should be out of class as a consequence that various parties can't sit at the table and meet", he added.

Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, which negotiates centrally on behalf of the union’s school board employees, says she's hopeful a deal will be reached.

"If there is a deal to be had, CUPE will find it", Walton said on Wednesday.

She says they had no choice but to escalate job action because "across the province, boards are cutting services and putting students at risk".

Walton says CUPE remains "committed to reaching a freely negotiated collective agreement that provides security of services for students and a fair deal for members".

Local Impact

Still, Renfrew County's school boards are preparing for the possibility of a strike.  

There's no indication yet as to whether a strike would actually prompt the closure of any local schools, but board officials say they're watching the situation closely.

The Renfrew County District School Board says the strike would affect information technology, clerical, facilities and custodial staff in the County's public elementary and high schools, and that their focus continues to be on student safety and mitigating disruptions to student learning. 

It's a similar story at the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board, which says student safety, well-being and learning will continue to be their focus.