Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative & Heather Wright/The Independent
Both the public and Catholic school boards in Lambton say classes will return to normal Tuesday.
That’s after CUPE agreed to take down protests at MPPs offices and go back to work in the wake of Premier Doug Ford saying he would repeal the Keeping Kids in School Act. That legislation was preemptive back to work legislation after the union – which represents custodians, educational assistants, early childhood educators and secretaries – said it planned to strike Friday. It also imposed a contract on the workers.
But first thing Monday morning, Ford offered to repeal the legislation if the union agreed to get back to work and the negotiating table.
“The government blinked,” CUPE President Mike Hancock said as CUPE’s Ontario arm announced education workers will shutdown protests, head back to the class and sit down again at the bargaining
The 55,000 members across the province were legislated back to work, Thursday, but walked off the job in what they called a political protest Friday. The workers are the lowest paid in the education, with some making less than $39,000 a year.
The workers went back to the MPPs offices Monday, just as the Premier held a news conference where he offered to sit back down at the negotiating table and rescind the imposed contract which gave those making $43,000 2.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent to $43,000.
“CUPE please accept this offer…take strike action off the table and get our kids back to school,” said Ford.
Ford added he didn’t regret imposing the back-to-work legislation saying CUPE is at fault for “walking away from the table.”
The provincial mediator ended the talks saying the two sides were too far apart to reach an agreement.
When Ford was asked if he had miscalculated by passing the legislation he said; “This is nothing we did; this is on CUPE.”
This is nothing we did; this is on CUPE.Ontario Premier Doug Ford
“Stop the strike, get into the classroom,” Ford said adding then the negotiations could restart. “This is a massive olive branch; I’ll rescind Section 33 (the notwithstanding clause which struck down collective bargaining rights) based on them going back into the classroom…Once they do that, we sit down at the table and negotiate a fair deal.
“We need them to come back.”
In Lambton, Michele LaLonge-Davey, Local 1238 president, had not heard all of the details of Ford’s offer but said; “That is the wrong order of operation, sir.
“I will say there is no trust,” LaLonge-Davey said between Premier Ford and the union, but acknowledged the premier wanting to pull back what it passed last week as “baby steps.”
By noon, CUPE Ontario Karen Walton said Ford had put his plans to repeal the act in writing and declared; “We have our bargaining rights back.”
Walton added she is now waiting for a “new proposal at the bargaining table as soon as possible. We’re here waiting, right now, the time is ticking.”
She added while education workers will be back on the job Tuesday, they stand ready to strike if talks don’t go in the right direction.
Lalonge-Davey agreed. “We are choosing to behave as trustworthy adults,” said Michele Lalonge-Davey, after it was announced the walkouts would end and the two sides agree to go back to the bargaining table. There is a path to head back to the picket line if negotiations break down again, she said.
Walton was flanked by labour leaders at the Toronto news conference, including Hancock who said the legislation was “a direct threat to worker rights and…to all Canadians” because the premier used the notwithstanding clause to remove workers’ rights.
We have our bargaining rights backLaura Walton, president CUPE-Ontario
“Our movement is strong and we will stand up for each other.”
Unifor’s president agreed saying the labour movement was prepared with an “unprecedented response.” Lana Payne said Unifor had agreed last night to take whatever action necessary to stop the Ford government from suspending collective bargaining rights.
Late Monday, the government said the legislation would be repealed next Monday.