Local School Boards Prepare For Education Workers' Strike

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Renfrew County's school boards are preparing for a strike by thousands of education workers across Ontario, which is expected to begin on Monday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 55,000 education workers, says it has given the legally required five days' notice to begin a strike.  The workers include custodians, clerical workers and early childhood educators.  They started a work-to-rule campaign this week.

In some schools, custodians have stopped cleaning hallways and emptying garbage cans outside schools, clerical workers have stopped finding replacements for absent staff, and education workers have stopped working overtime.

Local Impact

The Renfrew County District School Board says the strike will affect information technology, clerical, facilities and custodial staff in the County's public elementary and high schools.

"We are reviewing the announcement and we will provide an update shortly", said RCDSB Communications Director Jonathan Laderoute.

"Our focus continues to be on student safety and mitigating disruptions to student learning", he added.

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.

"Caretakers in twelve RCCDSB schools and our tradespersons are represented by CUPE", says a news release from the Catholic board.

Those schools are St. Joseph's in Arnprior, St. John Bosco in Barry's Bay, St. Anthony's in Chalk River, George Vanier in Combermere, St. Mary's in Deep River, St. Andrew's in Killaloe, St. Francis of Assisi in Petawawa, Holy Name in Pembroke, Our Lady Of Lourdes in Pembroke, Our Lady Of Grace in Westmeath, Bishop Smith High School in Pembroke, and St. Joseph's Catholic High School in Renfrew.

"Please watch for further communication in the coming days regarding any further developments", says the RCCDSB.

The Road Ahead

It remained unclear early on Wednesday afternoon how close the two sides may or may not be to resuming talks.

CUPE says it is willing to return to the bargaining table to avoid a full strike.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Tuesday that CUPE had accepted a government offer of new mediation dates so that talks could resume.

But the union refuted that, saying no dates had been offered and the parties remained too far apart to return to the table.