A school strike has been averted in Ontario as education workers and the government reached a tentative agreement late Sunday afternoon.
The agreement comes after a weekend of intensive negotiations between the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the province.
“There will be no job action tomorrow,” the union’s bargaining team said in a Tweet. “Our members will be reporting to schools to continue supporting the students that we are proud to work with.”
The deal still needs to be ratified by CUPE members. A vote is expected to begin on Thursday and will be completed by next weekend.
Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), confirmed that after 170 days of bargaining, the team reached a tentative agreement. However, she did not speak highly about what was in the deal.
“The entire central bargaining committee wishes we could have moved the government to make the investment in public education that you not only wanted, but that you needed and that your children deserve,” she said. “We have done our absolute best to represent workers needs and interests.”
“We will continue to do that now, bringing the tentative agreement back to the front-line workers for the ratification vote.”
According to Walton, the government made no further concessions throughout the weekend, adding the province “did not provide any new money for new services.”
“Basically, what we’ve been told by this government is that they are not willing to budge any further. We are bringing to our members to have the vote,” she said.
“As a mom, I don’t like this deal. As a worker, I don’t like this deal … I think it falls short.”
Despite saying this, Walton explained the central bargaining committee will recommend members accept the agreement “as required.”
If CUPE members vote not to ratify the tentative agreement, the union and province will have to go back to the negotiation table.
CUPE has previously said the government had come to the table with a 3.59 per cent wage increase for workers.
This is an increase from their previous offer, which included a 2.5 per cent annual raise for workers who make under $43,000 and a 1.5 per cent yearly wage increase for those who make more. It was this contract that was mandated onto workers in Bill 28—also known as the “Keeping Students in Class Act”—which also used the notwithstanding clause to make it illegal for workers to go on strike.
The bill was rescinded last week as part of a deal with CUPE to end a two-day protest that shuttered schools and return to the bargaining table.
Both sides had agreed to a 5 p.m. Sunday deadline to come to an agreement in order to avert another strike that would have impacted thousands of students, parents and workers.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce called the agreement a “positive outcome for all parties” Sunday afternoon.
“The biggest beneficiary of this deal is our kids, who are going to have some stability and be able to stay in school,” he said. “We are grateful to all parties for working with the government.
“Kids deserve to be in class and I’m proud to confirm they will be tomorrow.”
Lecce added that all parties received some “incremental wins” in the tentative agreement.
The province is still in negotiations with other education unions, including those representing public school teachers.