(File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / tomwang)(File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / tomwang)

Windsor-Essex school boards react to CUPE job action

Local school boards are hoping that strike action can be averted, but have said they'll be ready if it happens.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) announced Wednesday morning they would begin full strike action at midnight Sunday. The union represents 55,000 educational assistants, early childhood educators (ECEs), custodial staff, IT professionals and clerical workers.

At the Greater Essex County District School Board, public relations director Scott Scantlebury said they are following the developments closely.

"The GECDSB remains hopeful that bargaining will continue and a settlement can be secured before the deadline," said Scantlebury. "However we are developing contingency plans in the event of a work stoppage by CUPE employees."

Meanwhile, the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board said their chief concern is the safety of their students and employees. The board also indicated that the dispute is between the union and the provincial government.

"We will be monitoring the bargaining situation closely and will communicate our intentions regarding a contingency plan for our schools as soon as we have a clearer sense of whether the union will indeed move to full-scale job action," said board education director Terry Lyons. "At this time, it is very important to allow the process to continue. We remain hopeful that the two sides will return to the bargaining table and that a resolution can be reached."

The French-language Catholic board, Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence, is also taking a wait-and-see approach but suggests parents have contingency plans ready themselves.

"The board is analyzing the impact of the strike notice on the operation of schools," the board said in a French-language email to parents sent Wednesday afternoon. "We will provide an update directly to parents and staff as soon as a decision is made. We understand that this decision could have a significant impact on your family.  Families are encouraged to explore alternative childcare options next week if the strike results in the closure of schools."

CUPE members have been under work-to-rule since Monday morning, meaning that staff are only completing the bare minimum of duties as spelled out in their job descriptions. The public board announced earlier this week that they would not offer their buildings for off-hours community renting until the matter is resolved.

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