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Second day of protests plays out in Toronto as labour hearing on education worker strike continues

Education support workers continued a second day of protest in Toronto as the province’s labour board resumed a hearing on the government's application to deem the walkout illegal.

A large crowd of education workers and allies attended a “Solidarity Saturday” march this afternoon, which was held by The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) at Yonge-Dundas Square downtown.

“This Friday was the beginning. It cannot be the end. We have to be able to build and show the true opposition that's out there,” Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario President Fred Hanh said at the rally.

CUPE, which represents 55,000 education workers, started protesting across the province on Friday against Bill 28, also known as the Keeping Students in Class Act. The bill was passed a day earlier by the Ford government and strips away the workers’ right to strike and imposes a four-year contract.

The protest resulted in the closure of many schools across Ontario on Friday. Several school boards have also announced their plans to transition to remote learning next week until the protest ends.

Hanh reiterated on Saturday that the union will continue to walk off the job Monday and indefinitely until the government comes back to the table to negotiate a fair deal on salary and other requests.

“What I would say to parents is we need you to join us in calling your MPP and talking to the government and saying this is unacceptable. They are the ones who can end this tomorrow. The government can end this tomorrow by withdrawing this legislation and actually sitting down to negotiate a fair agreement with our members,” he said.

Demonstrators at Saturday’s march said they are protesting for education support workers to earn a livable salary as the cost of living continues to rise in the province.

“We need to stand up and protect these rights and support our workers for our kids’ future and for the future of Ontarians as well. It can only benefit the economy, benefit the province if people are making a living wage,” one unidentified parent told CP24.

Education support workers are seen protesting at a march at Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square on Nov. 5, 2022.

“As a custodian, we are so understaffed but the payment, most of us are working second jobs and that’s just not fair,” another unidentified protester said.

Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner also attended the march and said he wanted to stand up for the workers’ Charter rights that were infringed when the bill was passed.

“When we were debating this bill the other morning at 5 a.m., the education minister should have been at the table bargaining in good faith. CUPE members were ready to bargain, the education minister refused to do it and now students are paying the price,” Schreiner said.

While education workers are picketing, the Ontario Labour Relations Board continues to review the provincial government’s submission to declare the walkout illegal.

The government made the submission on Thursday, hours after contract negotiations concluded with CUPE and the union stated that it planned to go ahead with its protest on Friday.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce told CP24 on Friday that the government made the submission to the labour board in order to keep students in class.

“...We're going to be using all the pressures and frankly, all the levers of the legislation to get kids back to school. We've set out a clear expectation to our school boards, use every power, every authority to open as many schools for as many kids as humanly possible,” he said.

In the submission, Lecce alleged that CUPE and the Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU) "called or authorized or threatened to call or authorize an unlawful strike."

CUPE argues the job action is a political protest against Bill 28 and not a strike.

Bill 28 mandates a four-year contract onto the union members and part of that contract includes a 2.5 per cent annual wage increase for individuals making less than $43,000 a year and a 1.5 per cent increase for all other employees.

The government and CUPE have been in contract negotiations since July ahead of their contract expiring on Aug. 31.

The union said on Thursday that their latest offer was about half of what was originally proposed, which would be a roughly six per cent wage increase. They’re also asking for 30 minutes of prep time established every day for educational assistants and early childhood educators (ECEs), an extra week of paid work before the start of the school year and an increase in benefits.

The government has said the government will not go back into negotiations until CUPE ends their protest. Top Stories

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