IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 21, 2002
OPSEU to negotiate essential services at special schools
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union says Provincial Schools for children with special needs could re-open next week if essential services at the schools are negotiated.
OPSEU told the Ontario Labour Relations Board today (Sunday) it was willing to negotiate an essential services agreement that would result in some services being available at the schools, if the government can show that “life, health and safety” are at risk during the strike.
Under the legislation governing essential services, the onus is on the government to show the Union that issues of “life, health and safety” may be involved before any essential services negotiations can begin.
The Ontario government operates eight residential schools for children with impaired hearing and sight and some with multiple disabilities. OPSEU members at the schools have been on strike since March 13.
Leah Casselman, OPSEU president, said the government has always had the option of keeping the schools open during the strike.
“It was the government’s decision to close these schools, and they have never asked us in three rounds of bargaining to have them declared essential,” Casselman said, noting that schools were kept partially open in the 1996 OPS strike. “This time, it’s only when the parents have taken the government to court that the
government has requested the schools to be deemed essential.”
Parents of the children with special needs claim the school closures are having negative psychological or emotional effects on the students, including one possible attempted suicide.
If an agreement is reached by April 24, some services could be available by April 29.
For further information: OPSEU Communications
David Cox 416-788-9197