‘No job action’: strike averted as province, union reach tentative deal

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Students across the province will remain in class this week after a tentative deal was reached between the province and education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

“There will be no job action [Monday]. Our members will be reporting to schools to continue supporting the students that we are proud to work with,” stated a Nov. 20 bargaining update from CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU).

The union had filed a strike notice on Nov. 16 after ongoing contract negotiations soured once again.

Speaking to reporters during an online press conference, CUPE’s OSBCU president Laura Walton said the province’s offer had changed little since last week.

“As a mom, I don’t like this deal. As a worker, I don’t like this deal. … I think it falls short, I think it’s terrible that we live in a world that doesn’t see the need to provide services to kids that they need,” Walton said.

At the heart of the bargaining dispute was disagreement over wage increases and an ask for more early childhood educators and educational assistants in classrooms.

The tentative deal includes a $1-an-hour wage increase each year, but doesn’t provide the additional staff the union sought.

The bargaining unit president stated in a Sunday press release that the “agreement is nowhere near everything education workers and kids deserve, however it’s all the government is willing to give.”

Walton told reporters the offer will go before workers for a vote this week.

“We are going to take this back to the workers; the workers will make the final decision,” she said.

Speaking briefly to reporters at Queen’s Park on Sunday evening, education minister Stephen Lecce said he was “proud to confirm that the parties have come together to reach a tentative agreement.”

The agreement, Lecce said, will provide stability and keep children in classrooms across the province.

The minister did not provide details about the deal, saying it had yet to be ratified.

“This is a positive outcome for all the parties,” he said.

Lecce later added, “This is not about unions winning or government winning, it’s about our kids,” and people should focus on the “positive outcome.”

A ratification vote could be completed by Nov. 27.

If OSBCU’s 55,000 members across the province reject the deal, the union will return to bargaining with the province.