Ford says ‘improved offer’ given to CUPE for lowest paid education workers

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Ford government offers CUPE new contract
WATCH ABOVE: The Ford government is offering CUPE members a new contract that targets lower income workers with higher wages, but the union is questioning why the government hasn’t repealed Bill 28. Colin D’Mello reports – Nov 8, 2022

Premier Doug Ford says his government is back at the bargaining table on Tuesday with the union representing 55,000 education-support workers and has an “improved offer” for CUPE’s lowest paid employees.

The two sides decided to return to mediator-led negotiations on Monday after agreeing to end the escalating war that led to a two-day walk-out, the historic use of the notwithstanding clause, and threats of a general strike by several Canadian unions.

Schools reopened on Tuesday, after CUPE members returned to their posts backed by a promise from Premier Ford that Bill 28 would be repealed “in its entirety.”

CUPE, however, cautioned the government that it has yet to follow through on its offer to withdraw Bill 28 and asked the government to recall the legislature to dismantle the unprecedented law.

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“We kept up our end of the deal, we have kids in school today,” CUPE’s Laura Walton told Global News. “Something of this magnitude actually requires them to come back, get it done before Remembrance Day.”

While the Ford government initially promised CUPE the bill would be repealed “immediately,” according to the union, the government later moved that date to Monday Nov. 14 when the legislature resumes after a week-long break.

The Ontario legislature is typically closed during the week of Remembrance Day to allow MPPs to perform constituency work in their own ridings.

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At a news conference on Tuesday, Ford promised to follow through on his pledge with the cooperation of the opposition parties.

We’re repealing it on (the 14th). I know all three or four parties are out there taking care of their constituents and we’ve all agreed to come back on Monday. Let’s get it done. I’m sure the opposition will pass it right away, as we will,” Ford said.

Walton, however, pointed out that CUPE members are currently operating under a four-year contract that was imposed on the union by Bill 28, and questioned the point of ongoing negotiations.

“A deal can’t be done until that bill is repealed,” Walton said.

Despite the backroom bickering, Ford indicated he was willing to soften his stance at the bargaining table and offering a contract that offered increased wages for lower income CUPE employees.

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“We’re back at the table with an improved offer, particularly for the lower income workers,” Ford said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “Just as we’re listening to CUPE, we also need CUPE to listen to us.”

Due to privacy of negotiations, Ford would not elaborate on the details of the improved offer to the union.

The government had originally offered raises of two per cent a year for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all others, and the four-year deal imposed by the soon-to-be-repealed law gave 2.5 per cent annual raises to workers making less than $43,000 and 1.5 per cent raises for all others.

CUPE had originally been seeking annual salary increases of 11.7 per cent and has said it tabled a counter offer that cut its wage proposal in half.

Ford noted that “as premier, I always need to consider the bigger picture” and said the agreement with CUPE “will have massive impacts on broader public service salaries, especially as we continue negotiating with teachers.”

“These impacts, they could cost tens of billions of dollars. That’s money we need for schools, health care, transit and infrastructure. It’s money we need for vital services.”

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If a deal is still not reached, CUPE can issue another five-day notice to strike.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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