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Education workers back to work Tuesday as province vows to repeal Bill C-28

Students could be back in class as early as Tuesday, but the decision on whether to open schools that have been closed since Friday will be up to individual school boards. 

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents 55,000 educational support workers across Ontario.

Laura Walton, President of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions, confirms Premier Doug Ford has agreed to introduce and support legislation to repeal Bill C28 “in its entirety.”

The bill legislated educational support workers back to work, forcing a four-year contract that bans striking and further wage negotiations. Earlier Monday morning, Premier Doug Ford said he would be willing to withdraw Bill C28, and its use of the notwithstanding clause, if CUPE stopped its strike action.

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“This started because the Ford government didn’t want to pay workers, the lowest-paid education workers in this province, a living wage,” says Walton. “This started because we know the reality in our schools. They’re anything but normal and stable due to constant underfunding, and lack of investments in the direct services students need to be safe and successful.”

Walton credits striking workers for repealing the bill, calling it “draconian,” and adding that further strike action is not off the table if the province does not follow through on its promises.

In a statement, Education Minister Stephen Lecce says in return for CUPE ending its strike action Bill 28 will be repealed, “At the earliest opportunity, we will revoke Bill 28 in its entirety and be at the table so that kids can return to the classroom after two difficult years. As we have always said and called for, kids need to be back in the classroom, where they belong.”

Negotiations between the provincial government and CUPE broke down last week, with the mediator saying the sides were too far apart.

***With files  from Martin Halek 

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