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CUPE to work to rule

School support workers to start new labour action on third day of classes

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

One of the lead negotiators for CUPE says the province is not taking school support workers seriously – and that’s why the union’s members are taking action.

“We’re in a legal strike position come Sept. 10. It just so happens the next day that we are in negotiations with (the province)…so what we’re doing is, our members are quite upset that they put us in the backseat to everyone else, that they don’t see our jobs as important and our members play a vital role in the system and they don’t think it get the respect it deserves, so they’re voicing their opinions,” Jim Morrison, one of the lead negotiators for CUPE’s school unit, tells The Oshawa Express.

On Sept. 10, the third day back in school for many of the province’s students, all 55,000 members of CUPE’s school unit, which represents school support workers, will be starting a work to rule campaign.

“It’s just basically following our collective agreement, because our members do a lot of extra, above and beyond, what their normal job does. They work through breaks, stay after school or do some help with the boards and stuff like that, so basically we’re starting our first days as a work to rule, and we’re hoping that the talks that we’re having…will produce some results and get us to where we want to be,” he says. “Nobody wants to escalate anything, but our members feel they haven’t been taken seriously and they have been quite vocal about that.”

Morrison says CUPE hasn’t ruled out future escalation of the labour action, up to and including a full walk-out, but wants to see how the next round of negotiations goes before potentially taking that step.

Labour action and deals

With the school year now under way, another union, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), is continuing its work to rule action it began last year.

Talks are ongoing between ETFO and the province, with the union recently announcing its next steps in the work to rule action, which will include not attending open houses or parent-teacher nights, plan or participate in fundraising activities or engage in electronic communication with the principal or vice-principal outside of school hours.

These are in addition to previous measures announced earlier this year, which include not booking any field trips, conducting mandatory EQAO testing or provide report card comments.

Two teachers unions, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, reached tentative deals with the province last month.