Education union files for no-board report in stalled contract talks with province

The union representing 55,000 education workers in Ontario has requested a no-board report after reaching an impasse in bargaining talks with the province.

A no-board report starts the process for a potential strike by librarians, custodians, and administration staff across the province in less than three weeks time.

Once the conciliator issues a “no board” report, a decision that usually takes a couple of days, it sets a 17-day countdown to the union being in a legal strike position.

The two sides met for the second day after the union membership voted 96.5 per cent in favour of a strike mandate. Talks are also scheduled for Oct. 17 and 18, but there’s no word if those will go ahead in light of the no-board decision.

“We’ve been at the table for two more days waiting for the government and school boards to come back with a reasonable offer, but they refused,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions.

“They did not make a single move on key issues. As a result, we have been pushed into a position where we need to request a no board report and up the pressure to reach a negotiated settlement.”

Walton has not indicated if education workers would engage in a full strike, start with a work-to-rule campaign, or take some other course of action.

“We are calling on trustees and the Ford government to provide us with more negotiation dates and to put real improvements on the table.”

Earlier, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said they plan to remain at the negotiating table while chastising what he calls “education unions’ relentless pursuit of classroom disruptions.”

“CUPE is today preparing to strike and disrupt student learning if they do not get the nearly 50 per cent compensation increase they’re demanding,” he said in a statement on Friday. “The premier and I have been clear that nothing matters more than students staying in classrooms without any disruption to their school year.”

Lecce added that the government “will ensure children remain in class. Period.”

On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford pleaded with education workers not to go on strike while refusing to say if he would use back-to-work legislation should they walk out.

“Please do not go on strike, don’t force my hand,” said Ford. “Continue negotiating …but do not go on strike.”

The government has offered raises of two per cent a year for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all other workers, while CUPE is looking for annual increases of 11.7 per cent.

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