Students back in class in Canada’s Ontario after end of strike

Some 55,000 educational workers will return to work Tuesday after the Ontario government agreed to repeal its controversial Bill 28 that made a strike illegal, meaning hundreds of thousands of students will be back in class.

Faced with mounting pressure from a coalition of unions and criticism from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for enacting a clause that overrides a union’s right to strike, the government of Premier Doug Ford blinked first and offered to repeal Bill 28 if the members would return to the classroom. They walked off the job Friday in defiance of Bill 28.

The bill, passed Thursday, would have imposed a four-year contract on the members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and subjected members to fines up to CAN$4,000 a day (US$3,000). As a result of Monday’s promise from Ford, union members agreed to end their strike.

After union leaders said at a press conference they would return to classes, Education Minister Stephen Lecce released a statement.

“CUPE has agreed to withdraw their strike action and come back to the negotiating table,” Lecce said in the statement. “In return, at the earliest opportunity, we will revoke Bill 28 in its entirety and be at the table so that kids can return to the classroom… As we have always said and called for, kids need to be back in the classroom, where they belong.”

Mark Hancock, national president of CUPE, said Bill 28 was an attack on the right to strike which united various unions in the labor movement. And the unions won, he said Monday.

“They took on the Ford government, and the government blinked,” Hancock said. “We’ve shown that when under attack, our (labor) movement is strong and we will stand up for each other.”

Wages are the main issue, with the Ford government offering about two percent increase and the union demanding about 11% because of inflation and minor pay increases over the last decade.

Source: Anadolu Agency