Catholic schools closed, public schools open in Simcoe County if education workers strike

CUPE says a strike planned for Friday will continue indefinitely

with files from The Canadian Press

Schools with the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) will be closed in the event of a strike by 55,000 education workers.

This differs from the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) which said its schools will remain open in the event of a walkout.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) indicated on Wednesday that a strike planned for Friday will continue indefinitely, but the government is refusing to negotiate futher unless the job action is cancelled.

CUPE represents custodial staff at the SMCDSB, and custodial and maintenace staff at the SCDSB.

“We have carefully reviewed the situation and have determined that in the absence
of custodial staff, the learning environment would be unsafe for students. For this reason, we
have made the difficult decision to close schools for all students on Friday, November
4th. Families must make alternative arrangements for the care and supervision of their children,” the SMCDSB said in a letter to parents on Wednesday.

The board said students will be provided with work to complete independently at home on Friday.

As well, before and after school programs, school transportation services, community use of schools and extracirrucular activites will be cancelled on Friday.

“Our planning must also take into account that labour unrest could go beyond Friday,” the board noted. “At this time, we are encouraging families to explore alternate arrangements for their children, in case this labour unrest continues. Although we are not distributing technology on Friday, we are making plans to ensure students have the appropriate technology at home, so we can move to a synchronous remote learning model as soon as possible, if necessary.”

The Ontario government has introduced a bill – expected to pass Thursday – to impose a contract on the education workers and ban them from striking. Lecce said because of CUPE’s strike threat, the government “has no choice” but to proceed with the bill.

The legislation sets out fines for violating a prohibition on strikes for the life of the agreement of up to $4,000 per employee per day, while there are fines of up to $500,000 for the union. CUPE has said the union would foot the bill for penalties levied against workers, and suggested Wednesday that it is looking for outside financial help.