Public schools would close if support workers strike

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

Update 1:40 p.m. Monday: Story updated to include details on legislation, comment from ETFO

BROCKVILLE – The Upper Canada District School Board says it would have no choice but to close schools if workers strike Friday.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees issued a notice Sunday that workers will walk off the job if a deal is not reached.

The UCDSB says CUPE employees make up about a quarter of the board’s workforce.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce is holding a news conference at 2 p.m. today to speak to legislation being introduced to keep students in the classroom.

The legislation, called the Keeping Students in Class Act, would impose a contract on support workers.

Lecce says the deal on the table would give 2.5 per cent pay raises making less than $43,000 a year and 1.5 per cent for all others, while the union is seeking annual raises of 11.7 per cent.

Another union has jumped to CUPE’s defence.

Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario President Karen Brown condemned the back-to-work legislation saying the Ford government is imposing a “concessionary contract on some of the lowest-paid education professionals working in Ontario’s schools.”

ETFO said it had a central bargaining date with the province today but “could not, in good conscience, sit across the table from the government” so it called off the meeting.