Education workers strike sparks response on campus

QUFA, PSAC 901, and CESA comment 

Schools had to shut their doors.
Photo: 

Queen’s stakeholders and local unions are commenting on the recent education workers strike action. 

Ontario education workers went off the job last Friday, and again briefly on Monday before the Ford government moved towards repealing Bill 28, which prohibits strike action. In response to the strikes, many school boards—including the Limestone District School Board—suspended operations to ensure the safety of staff and students.

The education workers were represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in the labour bargaining process.

Concurrent Education Students’ Association (CESA) President Zachary Galvani said as aspiring teachers, the organization values the work of CUPE members who went on strike. Galvani specifically mentioned the work education workers do to support student learning and safety. 

“It is disheartening to see that the provincial government failed to engage in good faith bargaining from the onset of negotiations. The use of the notwithstanding clause to undermine Charter Rights and Freedoms was wholly inappropriate,” Galvani said in an email to The Journal. 

Both Galvani and Peter Chin, associate dean (Teacher Education), said teacher candidates were instructed to follow the instruction of their assigned school administration and their associate teacher. 

“If a practicum moves online and continues to be a productive combination of teaching, planning, and marking it will be counted by the Ontario College of Teachers,” Chin said in a statement to The Journal.

Chin said some students spent Monday working with their associate teacher to plan for a shift to what was then the possible potential of more long-term online learning.

CESA and the Faculty of Education said they remain hopeful an agreement can be reached without further disruptions to school and any practicum activities. 

Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) President Jordan Morelli said in invoking the notwithstanding clause, the Ontario government was infringing on the constitutionally protected right to strike. 

“The imposition of the notwithstanding clause to impose of contract on CUPE education workers and deny them of their constitutionally protected right to strike and to negotiate a free and fair collective agreement is an egregious violation and represents a direct attack on the rights of all workers in Ontario,” Morelli said in a statement to The Journal. 

Morelli said QUFA will stand in solidarity with education workers and against any “threats” to democracy that disregard basic rights. 

PSAC 901 is unequivocally standing in solidarity with CUPE education workers. Astrid Hobil, president of PSAC 901, said their union supports bargaining demands for a fair contract. 

“The wages in this sector have stagnated for far too long. The government needs to recognise their value and compensate them justly,” Hobill said in a statement to The Journal

“This is an attack on all workers in the province as it takes away the legal right of these workers to strike, which is a fundamental power that we hold as collective labour.”

Originally, pickets outside Kingston MPP Ted Hsu’s office were planned throughout the week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Since the announcement from the Ford government on Monday, these pickets have not taken place. Education workers are back in school as of Tuesday. 

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