Closing the door on an especially contentious negotiating period in the long, sad history of contentious negotiations between education workers and the provincial government, the deal between the Government of Ontario and 55,000 education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees has been ratified. Out of the 41,559 members that voted, 30,330 – or 73 per cent – have said that they are accepting the deal.
“For the last week and a half, 55,000 frontline education workers considered whether the tentative agreement their bargaining committee negotiated is acceptable, and the majority said ‘yes,’” said Laura Walton, educational assistant and president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU), in a statement. “Because we stood up for fairness and freedom, refusing to be bullied anymore, we ended up with an agreement that’s free of concessions and we more than doubled the wage increase the Ford government tried to impose on us.”
“To the parents who joined us in demanding improved services for Ontario’s students: Together we have exposed this government’s appalling track record of underfunding public education,” Walton added. “My coworkers and I will never stop advocating for your children. Change isn’t only won at the bargaining table and we are going to keep mobilizing with you for better funding.”
The deal, although not perfect from the point of view of CUPE, was called a “particularly good result” considering the cantankerous nature of the negotiations, at least according to CUPE national leaders Mark Hancock and Candace Rennick.
In the new contract, workers will see a wage increase of $1 per hour in each year of a four-year collective agreement that will result in wage increases of 3.59 per cent on average across bargaining units, or roughly 14.4 per cent compounded over four years. For the lowest paid workers that flat rate of $1 per hour, per year actually amounts to 4.2 per cent each year or 16.8 per cent compounded over four years. The dollar amount also increases wages faster than a straight percentage increase.
In addition, the OSBCU did not give up any concessions on sick days or job security, secured consistent funding for the benefits’ trust, and they even secured payment for the two days of job action that the union undertook to protest Bill 28. Negotiators were not able to get additional funding or new access to new services, but CUPE considered the deal an overwhelming victory given the pressures, and the use of the notwithstanding clause to impose a deal on the union last month.
“No deal contains all we seek, but we are confident the bargaining committee secured all that could be secured,” said Hancock and Rennick in a statement. “It is a particularly good result following the attacks on your collective bargaining rights and your right to strike, as represented by the now-repealed, thoroughly unconstitutional Bill 28.”
“This collective agreement is our first in 10 years to be freely bargained instead of forced on us with legislative interference,” added Walton. “It’s the product of democracy in action – workers having the freedom to negotiate and to withdraw our labour if necessary.”
The provincial government still needs to reach a deal with the four major teachers’ unions: the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers;’ Federation (OSSTF), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and the Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’Ontario (ACÉPO).