Stop the presses (not that there are many actual presses anymore), but there’s late breaking news on a Sunday night! Although most places in the province were prepared for job action at their local schools starting Monday, a literal last minute deal between the Ontario Ministry of Education and the negotiating team representing 55,000 education workers has been reached.
“The OSBCU Bargaining Team will be bringing a tentative agreement to the membership,” said an email blast from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) – Ontario on Sunday evening. “There will be no job action tomorrow. Our members will be reporting to schools to continue supporting the students that we are proud to work with.”
Obviously no details about the deal have been released, and CUPE promised that they would be providing those details to their members shortly before scheduling a ratification vote in the days to come. “This fight has always been focused on the workers and it is important that workers have a voice on what has been presented,” the release said. “We will provide further information to our amazing community and labour allies shortly. Our deepest appreciation for the continuing support.”
From the government side, Education Minister Stephen Lecce repeated in his statement the talking point that his goal in these negotiations was to keep kids in class, and by that metric, these negotiations have been a success. “I know this is welcome news to all students, parents, and workers alike, who now have the certainty they’ve been looking for,” Lecce said in a statement.
“This is not a win for governments or education unions, it’s a win for Ontario families who finally have peace of mind knowing their children will remain in the classroom,” he added. “After two and a half years of unprecedented disruptions, nothing matters more than stability in our schools. We are pleased to have reached a deal today that will make sure kids are in class catching up on their learning.”
Barring any unforeseen hiccup during ratification, this marks the end of a remarkably contentious negotiation that started in October with CUPE giving a five day notice of job action. The Ontario government countered with the introduction of Bill 28, which would use the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Constitution to impose a new deal on CUPE. The union responded with a one-day province-wide walkout on November 3 that saw the involvement of so many unions that a general strike was threatened.
The Government of Ontario blinked and on the Monday after the strike, they pledged to revoke Bill 28 and return to the negotiating table. CUPE ended their job action and school resumed on Tuesday November 7. The Ontario government formally revoked Bill 28 one week late on November 14.
“This law should never have been adopted. Bill 28 imposed a four-year concessionary contract that would have pushed more of us into poverty while stripping us of our Charter rights, human rights, and any legal avenue to fight back,” said educational assistant and president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) Laura Walton in a statement that day. “Students and parents need funding guarantees to ensure services are being provided in schools.”