Negotiations Between Government and Education Workers Continue
The Canadian Union of Public Employees – Ontario School Board Council of Unions (CUPE-OSBCU) informs that they are continuing negotiations with the Ontario government over the weekend and that both parties have agreed that they will inform the public of where things stand at 5pm on Sunday, November 20, so that everyone can make arrangements.
School boards across the province are releasing contingency plans in case negotiations do not lead to a collective agreement and do lead to a prolonged strike. Some boards have announced they will go online as of Monday, November 21, while others have moved to an alternating schedule for in-person learning, while still others will continue in-person without their CUPE-OSBCU staff.
Other education sector unions in Ontario are working out how they will respond to the strike, and in particular the demands on their members to provide online learning while attending work during the strike. In most cases, where going online was announced, workers were given no advance notice nor planning time nor time to prepare with their students and are now expected to just switch to a different way of teaching over a weekend. Meanwhile, in many cases, their own children are expected to be at home attending online school, something that, for elementary students especially, requires extensive supervision and support. What is clear however is that by using online learning during a strike, the intention of the government, and even some school boards, is to try to prolong the strike so that they can claim that students are still in school — irrespective of the disastrous consequences this will have on them, educators and education workers.
Some unions have said that they will file grievances with school boards for using online learning for this purpose. However, according to this mechanism of labour relations, teachers would still be required to comply with an order to go online, while they dispute its use through the grievance process. This, in essence, means that the government, and the school boards, can act to undermine the right to strike using online as a tool, while other workers are forced to comply with an order that they know undermines the right to strike and which, in fact, prolongs a strike by making it less effective in the short term. In other words, teachers are supposed to accept being forced to support the government and the school boards in hiding the vital nature of the work education workers do by facilitating schools running without them.