The Canadian Union of Public Employees is now asking thousands of education support workers in Ontario to accept a tentative contract offer from the Ford government, contradicting earlier comments from a key member of the bargaining team.
When the union agreed to accept a four-year contract offer from the Ford government on Nov. 20 — narrowly averting a planned strike that would have closed schools province-wide — the bargaining committee signalled its unease with the deal.
“I don’t like this deal,” said Laura Walton with the Ontario School Board Council of Unions, which represents 55,000 custodians, librarians, early childhood educators, and clerical staff.
“As a mom, I don’t like this deal. As a worker, I don’t like this deal. As the president of the OSBCU, I understand why this is the deal that’s on the table. I think it falls short and 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.”
The tepid endorsement of the contract by Walton led to internal union concerns about whether the members would accept or reject the offer during a nearly two-week ratification vote — the results of which would be unveiled on Dec. 6, the union said.
On Tuesday, however, CUPE national president Mark Hancock appealed to members to vote in favour of the tentative contract, saying the bargaining committee “secured all that could be secured.”
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“The OSBCU bargaining committee was able to achieve a breakthrough wage settlement, after more than a decade of legislated wage restraint,” Hancock said in a memo to members.
“No deal contains all we seek.”
While Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the contract resulted in “incremental gains” for both sides, government sources told Global News the deal was the same offer presented to the union before it announced a five-day strike notice on Nov. 15.
CUPE, which calls this one of the “toughest rounds of negotiations in the country,” said the deal would give members a $1-per-hour wage increase, netting the lowest earners a 16.8-per cent increase when compounded over four years.
“While you were not able to achieve all you sought in this round — namely, funding for additional, much-needed services — we recommend acceptance of this tentative agreement alongside your bargaining committee,” Hancock said.
Earlier in the month, CUPE workers staged a two-day strike after the province briefly introduced legislation that outlawed their labour action and imposed a contract on CUPE workers.
That legislation was repealed by the Ford government — an offer it made in exchange for CUPE ending its strike action.