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Educational workers vs the Province

School and Child Care | Unsplash
School and Child Care | Unsplash

It appears that both sides of a labour negotiation which could affect the education of the province’s children, aren’t using their heads.

CUPE, who is negotiating a new collective agreement with the province, issued a release stating their members' willingness to go on strike as of Friday. The Ford government responded with a proposal for legislation to use the notwithstanding clause to supersede a collective agreement via the Keep Students in Class Act.

CUPE represents 55,000 workers who support the educational system. 

CUPE appears not to realize that the threat of a strike which closes schools across the province is tone-deaf. Children have just returned to school after a very difficult two years. Parents have finally been able to take a moment to enjoy some normalcy. 

Is this really the right time to threaten a strike? 

The province, realizing that parents and children need some consistency, decided that the best response was to threaten to use the notwithstanding clause to supersede a collective agreement prior to an actual strike. 

It is akin to using a submachine gun to kill a fly. 

Neither appears to be in the right frame of mind to do anything that resembles sanity. 

Alison Gohel, Oakville's Liberal candidate in the 2022 provincial election, commented via Twitter, “the whole point of the Charter is to protect our fundament freedoms. Governments should rarely use the notwithstanding clause and only when they have powerful policy reason to justify violating these freedoms.”

As a rebuttal to the potential of a strike, Education Minister Stephen Lecce issued this statement as a justification for using the notwithstanding clause: “We are disappointed that CUPE is refusing to compromise on their demand for a nearly 50 per cent increase in compensation, representing a price tag close to $19-billion if extended across the sector.” 

As of last night negotiations were still underway, making it difficult to know if these threats are really a public way to leverage their bargaining positions.