Schools reopen, strike averted after CUPE and province reach deal

A strike by Ontario's education support workers has been averted. Richard Southern with why the tentative deal falls short of the targets set by union leaders, and whether that could pose a problem when members go to vote on the contract.

By Michael Talbot, John Marchesan and The Canadian Press

A strike involving thousands of Ontario education workers has been averted after the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the province reached a tentative agreement on Sunday following a weekend of negotiations.

The agreement was announced shortly after the 5 p.m. Sunday deadline.

CUPE-OSBCU president Laura Walton said the deal left much to be desired but was the best they could get for their 55,000 education workers.

The two sides recently agreed on a 3.59 per cent wage increase, but the union was still fighting for higher staffing levels — a fight it apparently lost.

“The biggest gap at the end was no new funding to guarantee that services will be provided in schools for students,”  Walton said in a release. “For that, to parents and families, all I can say is that I’m disappointed, and so is the entire bargaining committee.”


The union was looking for $100 million in guarantees of higher staffing levels for educational assistants, librarians, custodians and secretaries, as well as an early childhood educator in every kindergarten classroom and not just classes that have more than 16 students.

“The tentative agreement includes a flat-rate wage increase instead of a percentage,” Walton added. “This tentative agreement is nowhere near everything education workers and kids deserve. However, it’s all this government is willing to give.”

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the big winner in the ongoing labour battle was Ontario students who will be in the classroom come Monday morning.

“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 said.

“After two and a half years of unprecedented disruptions, nothing matters more than stability in our schools.”

As for the negotiations, Lecce said both sides should be content with the outcome.

“All parties … leave this tentative agreement with positive outcomes for what we were trying to advance,” he said at a press conference. “I think all parties have been able to receive some incremental wins.”

CUPE staged a two-day walkout earlier this month which came to an end after the province promised to repeal legislation that imposed a contract on its members and banned their right to strike.

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