Late Sunday evening, parents across Ontario got the news that they wanted to hear: there will be no strike by support workers organized under the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on Monday. A last minute deal has been reached between CUPE and the Government of Ontario, meaning peace at schools across the province. For now.
“I am pleased to announce that a tentative agreement has been reached between the Crown, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and the school board trustee associations,” said Minister of Education Stephen Lecce in a statement.
“The Government has remained a constructive force at the table with one mission in mind: keeping students in a safe and positive learning environment. By negotiating in good faith, all parties have demonstrated that a tentative deal can be achieved,” he added.
“We have secured a settlement that invests in high-quality services for students in Ontario’s schools, now and in the future,” said Laura Walton, President of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU) in their own statement.
“At the same time, it ensures that our members have secure jobs, decent benefits, and paid leave when they’re sick and injured. It’s what our education workers deserve.”
Specific details about the agreement will not be released until it is ratified by the 109 bargain units covered under the OSBCU, but the CUPE statement said that many of the cuts announced earlier this year have been restored, and that includes investments in jobs and services offered through the Local Priorities Fund. Workers will also hold on to their existing sick leave pay benefits.
The contract for 55,000 librarians, custodians, and early childhood workers expired on August 31. CUPE started work-to-rule actions last Monday, but were in an official strike position tomorrow morning. Here in Guelph, schools under both the Upper Grand District School Board and the Wellington Catholic District School Board were bracing for the cancellation of some programs, though no schools in Guelph were expected to close.
CUPE represents about 286 members in the Upper Grand District School Board, according to the Guelph Mercury Tribune, including 187 custodians, 46 maintenance employees and 53 ESL positions.
“I’m relieved that CUPE reached a deal with the government to avoid a strike,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement. “Education workers deserve a fair deal that reflects their vital role in our schools.
“Although classrooms are open for now, I urge the government to put students first by reversing class size increases,” Schreiner added.
“Throughout this process our goal has been to establish agreements that respect taxpayers, students and families, while also recognizing the important contributions of our front-line education workers,” added Premier Doug Ford in a statement. “Our government worked tirelessly at the bargaining table to achieve this goal and as a result two million students will remain in the classroom where they belong.”
The next hurdle for the Ontario government on the education file will be teachers. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) both just started negotiations, and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has already filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board about violating the labour and bargaining acts by changing class sizes.