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December 20, 2012 14:30 ET

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Dec. 20, 2012) – The leaders of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) are calling on the Minister of Education to allow school board workers to negotiate their contracts, and to not impose contracts unilaterally after December 31.

CUPE Ontario President, Fred Hahn, said today if the government is unwilling to back off its arbitrary December 31 deadline for contract negotiations and begins imposing contracts on CUPE workers, CUPE will immediately call on school board workers to stage a one-day job action.

“We have tried everything to meet that deadline; we sat down with the province to attempt to bargain, we have written to the Minister and to the Premier. They are just not listening. We have been left with no alternative.” Hahn added school boards have also complained the government has not allowed sufficient time for bargaining.

“I have personally tried to stave off this fight by reaching out to Premier McGuinty over the past 12 months,” said Paul Moist, CUPE National President, “But there’s been nothing but silence from his end. It is not acceptable that the largest union in Canada cannot speak face to face with the Premier of the Province on an issue concerning tens of thousands of our members.”

Hahn said the one-day protest is just a starting point. “How far this goes is up to the Liberal government. If they withdraw this threat to our democratic rights, we are prepared to keep bargaining until we have agreements that are fair for everyone. If they persist in this crisis they have created, we will escalate our political protests, including more job actions, until they repeal Bill 115.”

Bill 115, legislation passed by the Liberals with the help of the Conservatives, allows the government to ignore workers’ rights to collective bargaining, and rewrite and impose contracts on school board workers.

CUPE represents 55,000 support workers in schools, including educational assistants, secretaries, library technicians, administrative staff, custodians, early childhood educators, instructors, community advisory staff and food service workers. Hahn highlighted that the 200,000 other public sector workers represented by CUPE are also concerned about Bill 115 and resolved to take action in support of school staff.

“We all know what is at stake here,” commented Hahn, “Bill 115’s attack on our democratic right to collectively negotiate contracts with our employer is just the beginning. They’ve already proposed legislation to do the same and worse to the rest of the public sector. We will do everything in our power to stop this attack.”

Prior to prorogation, the liberal government proposed longer-term legislation that would allow Cabinet to override collective bargaining and interest arbitration processes throughout the public sector which have been the foundation of the Labour movement for decades.

For more information, please contact:

Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416-576-7316