Leadership with the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board says despite province-wide strike action on Friday, schools will remain open and students are expected to be in their classrooms that day.

However, if strike action continues past Friday – closures are expected.

Director of Education, Christy Radbourne, says non-union staff members will be deployed to KPDSB schools on Friday to provide additional health and safety support as members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees – including custodians, maintenance and trade staff – take to the picket lines.

The KPDSB adds that the additional staff will work to lessen any impacts on students, but families should be aware that if CUPE members remain off the job for longer than Friday, school closures may be necessary.

“As a board, we respect our CUPE staff and greatly value the work they do in our schools,” wrote Radbourne. “Student safety remains our top priority, and we will continue to monitor the situation and its impact.”

The Ontario government and the Canadian Union of Public Employees have been negotiating a new contract for over 50,000 education workers since the summer – but a countdown to strike action was triggered last month.

On October 19, CUPE announced that a conciliator had issued a ‘no board report’ – marking the start of a 17-day countdown to November 3. Once that day (today) passes, CUPE will be in a legal position to strike as long as they provided a 5-day notice to school boards.

That 5-day notice was issued to school boards and the province on Sunday, October 30.

Facing upcoming strike action, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the Keeping Students in Class Act on October 31, that if passed, would mandate and force a new 4-year deal on CUPE’s members.

Ontario's MPPs will be voting on the act today. 

CUPE says despite the legislation, members will be engaging in a province-wide strike on Friday. Ontario warns each person who participates could face fines of up to $4,000. 

Talks between the two parties began after the province unveiled their 4-year plan for education workers earlier this year, which called for 2 per cent wage increases for staff earning under $40,000 and increases of 1.25 per cent for everyone else.

With Canada’s inflation rate at nearly 7 per cent, CUPE began calling for wage increases of nearly 12 per cent for all workers – with increases in overtime pay, additional education assistants and custodians, as well as increased staffing levels in libraries, offices and lunchrooms.

Now, Ontario says their ‘final offer’ includes:

- 2.5 per cent wage increases for employees earning under $43,000 annually,
- 1.5 per cent wage increases for employees earning above $43,000 annually,
- A $6,120 employer-contributed benefits increase,
- Funding to support up to 875 teachers and up to 1,830 education workers,
- Modifications to sick leave and short-term disability leave plan provisions,
- $4.5 million in funding for apprenticeship training,
- An extension of modified job security provisions,

CUPE leadership rejected the offer shortly after it was made. 

The last time this group of education workers threatened strike action was in 2019 – which included a partial withdrawal of cleaning services. A five-day province-wide strike action notice was issued, but a last-minute deal was reached shortly afterwards.

When this fight ends, Ontario will then have to set its sights on four major teachers’ unions – whose contracts all expired on August 31, 2022.