The head of the union representing education workers in Ottawa and across Ontario warns of “ongoing political protests” in November, as the Canadian Union of Public Employees push for a new collective agreement with the government.

Early childhood educators, librarians, custodians and other education workers will remain off the job on Monday to back demands for a new contract. CUPE launched a political protest on Friday after the Ontario government passed legislation to impose a new four-year contract on education workers.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA Sunday morning, CUPE-OSBCU president Laura Walton says the union is receiving support from parents and other unions.

“Right now, what November looks like is ongoing political protests and I think what’s really, really interesting is the level of support and solidarity that is starting to grow day, by day, by day,” Walton told CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent.

“We have now seen every single union that endorsed Doug Ford condemn what he has done. They’re on the protest line with us; they’re coming out and saying enough is enough, they need to repeal this bill and get back to the bargaining table.”

Nine school boards in Ottawa and eastern Ontario have said schools will be closed to in-person learning this week, and classes will move online. The Renfrew County Catholic District School Board says 12 schools will be closed for in-person learning this week because CUPE members work in those schools.

A new poll finds most Ontarians blame the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford for the closure of classrooms during the dispute with CUPE.

The Abacus Data survey found 62 per cent blame the government for closing schools, while 38 per cent blame CUPE. The poll also shows 50 per cent of Ontarians think it was a bad idea for the Ontario government to use the notwithstanding clause to impose a new contract on employees.

In a statement following the release of the poll, Walton said the poll confirms that most Ontarians support education workers and believe the government should invest more in student success and good jobs.

“Education workers have been calling on the Ford government to negotiate a better deal. The entire labour movement has joined them. Now we see the majority of Ontarians are demanding it too. It’s time for the Ford government to listen,” Walton said.

Walton tells Newstalk 580 CFRA she expects support for the union to grow as CUPE’s political protest continues.

“I think parents are on the line learning with their kids, having an opportunity to talk about why it is so important – as people of Ontario, we fight to maintain the rights and freedoms,” Walton said.

“Let’s not forget Nov. 11 is coming up, there are people who fought so we have these freedoms – it seems absolutely outstanding that we have a government who thinks they’re going to get away with stripping them.”

Lawyers for the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario government have been appearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board this weekend, as the province tries to get the strike declared illegal.

The Abacus Poll finds more than seven in 10 Ontarians want the Ontario government to negotiate a fair deal with education workers to end the strike, while 29 per cent of Ontarians want the government to continue its current approach. The poll also shows 48 per cent of respondents would support other unions walking off the job to protest.

Walton says the CUPE bargaining team is prepared to return to the bargaining table today if the government is ready to negotiate.

She also had a message for parents, teachers and the public.

“I’m a parent too and I’m anxious. My son has been flourishing since he’s been back at school full-time, but he called me and he said, “Mom, I understand why you’re fighting and thank you for fighting,” Walton said.

“We want to be back in schools as soon as we can, but we can’t go back into schools where, you know, we have a government that is starving the system of the services they need, where our government is disrespecting and keeping workers in poverty, and where the government is striping the charter rights away from workers.”

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