CN Railway revealed on Saturday that the Teamsters have provided notice that they plan to go on strike beginning November 19.
CN’s Chief Operating Officer Rob Reilly released a statement today that read in part: “If a settlement cannot be reached this weekend, we will once again encourage the union leadership to accept binding arbitration as an alternative to disrupting the Canadian economy. We remain committed to constructive talks to reach an agreement without a work stoppage.”
Ontario public high schools across the province are closed today as teachers go on strike, despite on-going negotiations with Education Minister, Stephen Lecce, and Premier Doug Ford.
Tens of thousands of students and parents have had to find other arrangements due to the closing of before school and after school programs.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) decided to go on strike at midnight on Tuesday due to failed negotiations.
The OSSTF has faced criticism for taking unprecedented strike action, despite Ford and Lecce offering numerous concessions to the teacher’s union.
The union has often had a difficult relationship with previous governments, however, this is the first time since 1997 that its members have gone on strike.
The closures only affect public high schools, but Catholic high schools remain open.
Lecce publicly criticized the union, saying that the strikes were “unacceptable” for families across the province. Speaking to CBC radio, Lecce said that “Our students deserve to be in class today.”
The OSSTF has also been criticized for asking for too much. According to the Toronto Sun, average salary for a teacher is $92,000, which is a significantly higher salary than the average Ontarian who makes $55,000.
In a move reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party’s tea dumping, Quebec farmers have dumped their corn outside Prime Minister Trudeau’s Montreal office in protest on Monday. Farmers were upset that Trudeau didn’t step in and use parliamentary powers to send CN employees back to work.
The farmers were protesting the Liberal governemnt’s management of the CN rail strikes which had crippled the Canadian economy. The strike, protesting long working hours and the dangerous nature of the job went on for more than a week.
On Tuesday CN resolved the dispute with the workers’ union, Teamsters Canada, with a tentative deal. Employees were back at work by 2 p.m. on Tuesday and are starting regular operations by Wednesday morning.
The strikes cut off up to 85 percent of Quebec’s propane which is delivered by rail. The strike was particularly damaging to the protesting farmers because propane is needed to power grain dryers, which are vital to ensure that their corn crop can be dried and stored to be sold later. The Grain Farmers of Ontario released a statement urging the Candian government to end the strike as it was vital to ensure the farmers’ crops do not rot.
“This strike could not have come at a worse time for Ontario grain farmers. We are still seeing the majority of corn in the fields and harvest is progressing incredibly slowly. The corn being harvested is very wet and will require extensive drying to be viable, which requires the use of propane and our access is now cut off,” said Markus Haerle, Chair, Grain Farmers of Ontario. “This is devastating.”
The Quebec protestor’s, facing the same disastrous consequences of the strike as the Ontario farmers, held signs demanding the Trudeau and government to react to their need for propane.
In response to farmers’ demands to end the rail strike, Agricultural Minister Marie Claude Bibeau met with grain farmers in Regina to discuss how the strike was negatively affecting their farms.
She told farmers, “We still believe in the negotiation process. They are still around the table, and we are pushing both parties to come to an agreement,” and “This would be the best for every party and the fastest solution as well.”
With the recent tentative deal reached with the union representing CN rail workers, the propane should flow back into Quebec and the farmers crops will be saved.
High school teachers in Ontario have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike, according to CTV News.
After a vote in Toronto, 95 percent of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) voted in favour, thus providing an “overwhelming” mandate to carry out strike action.
Alongside teachers, the union also represents education workers who also voted strongly in favour of a strike.
The OSSTF now has to send a five-day notice stating when the strike will begin. After this, they will be in a legal position to stage a strike.
Elementary school teachers and Catholic school board teachers are also expected to threaten strike action.
Following a support worker strike on Monday, eighteen schools in the Vancouver Island district of Saanich have closed. The eighteen schools educate roughly 7,300 students, according to CBC.
Teachers have thrown their support behind the support workers. A teacher’s union has said these workers have a right to protest their current wages, which are lower than those of their counterparts in other districts. This also means that parents will have to find alternative means of care during the day.
According to Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 441 president Dean Coates, these low wages are a decades-old problem, which has negatively impacted recruitment for the district and retention problems with support worker staff.
“So, we’re overworked, postings go unfilled, no replacements because they can’t retain them, they go to the other districts,” Coates said. “So, we’re in a constant state of triage as a result of the low wages.”
Conversely, district superintendent Dave Eberwein says that the district has offered the union “everything possible under the government-directed mandate of two per cent in each of three years,” reports CBC, and that the district has looked for alternative means to boost salaries.
“There isn’t another support staff offer out there in the province that is as good as this one,” Eberwein said. “It doesn’t completely bridge the wage disparity, but this is step one of two that we’re looking at.”
Eberwein says that the lower wages for support workers in his district are a result of unions going after more benefits at the expense of worker’s wages decades ago. This has led to support worker’s earning between 30 cents and $4 per hour less than support workers in other districts.
While the district has tried to remedy the situation by increasing the wages by 6 percent over three years, there are currently no new negotiations plans. As such, it isn’t clear how long the support worker’s strike will last.
With that said, Coates is optimistic that the problem will be resolved, and that the district is working towards a solution that doesn’t open up the school board to the potential of other districts going on strike.
“I empathize with the frustration that they’re feeling. Our goal is to come to a resolution as quickly as possible,” Coates said.