CUPE, government reach deal to avert strike

The union representing thousands of education workers reached a tentative deal with the province Sunday night, averting a strike. Erica Natividad with what comes next, and what both sides are saying about the resolution.

By News Staff

A potential strike involving 55,000 education support workers in Ontario has been averted following a late night deal between the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The tentative three year agreement means schools across the province were open as usual on Monday.

“Parents can rest easy knowing that the Government worked tirelessly to ensure their children remain in the classroom, where they belong,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce, without giving any specific details of the new agreement except to say it was “fair and reasonable.”

“We can all leave this deal knowing we’ve achieved some incremental success, and that is important for the students of this province,” he said.

More than two dozen school boards were prepared to shut down classes in the event of a strike.

Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, apologized to parents and student for how long it took to get an agreement.

“To all the parents and students who have waited to know what is happening tomorrow, I would like to apologize for how long it has taken to be able to give you this news,” said Walton. “I do regret the disruption to your lives.”

Tens of thousands of custodians, clerical workers and early childhood educators had begun a work-to-rule campaign last week in a bid to pressure the provincial government into making concessions in contract negotiations.

The union says it was able to secure modest wage increases, a reinstatement of the local priorities fund with a new investment of up to $20 million and maintain its existing sick leave plan – a sticking point for the school trustees.

Lecce said the new deal “strengthens the integrity” of the sick leave program.

“I think the pressure that we applied, the fact that we were going to be going out on strike – a full withdrawl of services – made the difference this weekend,” said Walton.

Asked if the province caved in the negotiations, Walton said they “met us where they needed to be in order to get a deal” and that the union “didn’t give up anything.”

Walton says they hope to have the deal ratified by the end of the month.

CUPE is the first of several unions to reach an agreement with the Ford government since contracts for all of the province’s public school employees expired at the end of August.

WATCH: The politics behind the CUPE education workers deal

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