Ontario education workers union to release results of contract ratification vote

The union representing Ontario’s 55,000 education workers plans to publish the result of its contract ratification vote tomorrow.

The online vote opened on November 24 and is scheduled to end on Sunday, exactly two weeks after the union’s central bargaining committee reached a tentative deal with the provincial government. The agreement averted a strike, which was scheduled to start on Monday, November 21.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has scheduled a press conference for Monday at 10 am in Queen’s Park.

The union, whose members include custodians, education assistants, early childhood educators and administrative staff who work on the province’s public, Catholic, English and French school boards, initially planned to reveal the results on Tuesday.

CUPE officials recommend that members ratify the four-year contract, which has an average salary increase of 3.59 percent each year.

The terms of the agreement were mandated in a contract for workers under Bill 28, the “Keep Students in Class Act,” which used the notwithstanding clause to make it illegal for workers to go on strike. The province rescinded that bill after two days of protests and a promise to return to talks with the union.

If CUPE members vote to reject the latest agreement, both sides could return to the negotiating table and CUPE could issue another strike notice.

“This tentative agreement is the first in 10 years that is freely negotiated rather than imposed on us through legislative interference,” Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Council of Unions of Ontario School Boards, said in a Dec. 2 statement.

“For the past week and a half, frontline education workers have been deciding whether what is in this tentative agreement is acceptable. This, that workers have the freedom to negotiate and withdraw our work if necessary, is democracy in action.”

Walton, an educational assistant from Belleville, said she doesn’t like the deal because it doesn’t include new personnel guarantees.

Speaking briefly to reporters following CUPE’s no-strike announcement on November 20, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the agreement is a “positive outcome for all parties.”

“The biggest beneficiary of this agreement is our children, who will have some stability and will be able to stay in school,” he said.

“We are grateful to all parties for working with the government. … Children deserve to be in class and I am proud to confirm that they will be tomorrow”.

Lecce, who did not discuss the details of the deal, said there have been some “incremental wins” for both sides and that “all parties come away from the table with something they wanted to move forward with.”

“The biggest beneficiary of this agreement is our children who will be in school. That’s what matters. This is not about the unions winning or the government winning,” she said, calling the deal a “material victory for working parents.”

Lecce said that regardless of the outcome of the ratification vote, the provincial government intends to remain at the table and would continue to have “good faith negotiations” with the four other key Ontario education unions currently in contract negotiations.

With archives from The Canadian Press and Katherine DeClerq of CTV Toronto.

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