Less student supervision, less school cleaning: memo outlines CUPE's work-to-rule plan

A union representing education workers and the Ontario government have scheduled two days of last-minute contract talks in an effort to avoid a work-to-rule campaign.

Some 55,000 education workers could start campaign as soon as Monday

Despite the talks scheduled for this weekend, the union formally served notice on Wednesday that will put its members in a legal strike position on Monday. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A union representing education workers and the Ontario government have scheduled two days of last-minute contract talks in an effort to avoid a work-to-rule campaign.

CUPE, which represents 55,000 education workers in Ontario, has formally submitted notice that puts it in a legal strike position as of Monday. The new meetings between the union, province and the Council of Trustees' Associations are set for Saturday and Sunday.

The union also took the step Wednesday of outlining what work-to-rule will look like.

No CUPE member will ever do anything to make a school unsafe or put students at risk, officials say. However, memos sent to workers contain a long list of tasks that won't get done. That includes, but is not limited to, the following actions outlined in a memo to members:

  • Clerical staff have been explicitly told "do not supervise children." Those workers will also stop updating the school's websites and social media feeds.
  • Education assistants will not allow any class to proceed unless a teacher is present, nor will they participate in nutrition programs.
  • Custodians will similarly not supervise students, nor will they pick up garbage outside, or clean "Ministry unfunded areas" including hallways, offices and gyms.
  • Maintenance and Trade members will complete repairs only if the parts are in stock and on hand.

CUPE is just one of the unions locked in talks with Doug Ford's PC government. So far, none have been able to reach a deal, raising the concern of a widespread school strike that could happen this fall.

The talks are happening as the government has ordered school boards to start increasing class sizes, moving to an average of 28 for high schools over four years, up from 22. Class sizes for Grades 4 to 8 will increase from 23 to 24.

The government has said that will mean 3,475 fewer teachers in the system over four years, a cut it says will be accomplished by not filling vacancies when teachers quit or retire.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce has repeatedly said the government is committed to reaching a deal that provides stability for workers, parents and students alike.

Union says its fighting for workers and students

Laura Walton, the president of CUPE's Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said her union is trying to protect its workers (ranging from education assistants to custodians to early childhood educators), and the services students receive.

"This year we've seen those services decimated: school libraries closed over students' lunch breaks because there aren't enough library workers; school cleaning cut to the point that custodians are told they can only vacuum kindergarten classrooms once a week; eight or nine students with special needs now supported by a single education assistant; communications with parents affected because some schools have lost their school secretaries," Walton said in a news release.

"If it takes job action to restore these services, then so be it."

With files from The Canadian Press


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