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Extend bargaining deadline: CUPE Ontario head

Elementary school teachers protest Bill 115 at Central Public School in Woodstock, On., on Dec. 20, 2012. Courtesy of Mary Rita Holland (@MaryRitaHolland).

The head of CUPE Ontario, which represents 55,000 educational workers, school secretaries, bus drivers and janitors, urged the education minister to extend the bargaining deadline of Dec. 31, and warned of more labour action if the request went unheeded.

“We hope the arbitrary deadline of December 31 will be removed,” Fred Hahn said at a news conference on Thursday. “If the minister doesn’t reconsider we’ll be left with no other choice than to invoke our right to political protest.”

He said political action could include could job action, actions at lunch time and picketing.

Ontario public school boards and their unions have until Dec. 31 to reach deals. If that doesn’t happen the Ontario government would impose a two-year contract that includes a wage freeze and halves sick days as part of Bill 115.

The provincial government says any walkout held after a new contract is imposed would be illegal, but the union plans to move forward with the plan.

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), has also said there could be another day of political protest in the New Year.

“[The protest would be] outside the Ontario Labour Relations Act and we’re going to go ahead with it and we’re going to implement it,” Hammond said.

Bill 115 gives Education Minister Laurel Broten the power to end a strike or lockout without debating the issue in the provincial legislature. The government allowed the rotating strikes because they didn’t last more than one day.

Earlier Thursday, elementary school teachers in London and Kingston picketed as they continue to protest the Ontario government’s controversial Bill 115.

Teachers in Thames Valley, which includes London, Woodstock and Elgin; and Limestone, which includes Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, also went on strike.

By Friday, elementary teachers in all school boards across the province will have staged a one-day walkout.

With files from Shawne McKeown