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Schools’ support workers ink deadline deal with Ontario


Broten

VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten, seen in April.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has negotiated a tentative deal with the Ontario government for its 55,000 school support workers.

The agreement was reached Sunday after 30 hours of negotiations — just one day before the deadline for unions to reach deals with their local school boards, before the province swoops in to impose contracts under Bill 115.

“Bill 115 created an unnecessary crisis, making things much more difficult at the bargaining table,” said CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn in a statement. “It was the strength and support of our members, and the tireless work of our bargaining committee that made this tentative agreement possible.”

The union will not release any details of the agreement until after its leaders vote on it Jan. 5. However, the statement said the deal addresses the unique circumstances of school support workers, who earn an average salary of $ 38,000 and are laid off multiple times a year.

CUPE remains firmly opposed to Bill 115 and will continue its court challenge alongside the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, Hahn said.

Collective bargaining works. It creates stable working environments,” he said. “Bill 115 threatens that needed stability in our schools and puts our collective bargaining process at great risk.”

The agreement is a major breakthrough for the McGuinty government, which has been in a standoff with teacher and support-staff unions for months. Only 65 local agreements have been ratified out of a total of 470 — the majority with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, and a handful with support staff unions.

Education Minister Laurel Broten released a statement Sunday thanking CUPE for striking a tentative deal, and remaining firm on the Dec. 31 deadline for other unions.

“To those school boards and unions which have yet to come to terms on fair, balanced and responsible contracts, I say to you that it is time to end the uncertainty for students, parents and taxpayers and get back to doing what we do best: putting students first.”

CUPE — representing educational assistants, early childhood educators, instructors, custodians, librarians and school secretaries — will have an additional 14 days to hammer out local deals.

Only one local from the OSSTF, the Upper Grand District School Board, has ratified an agreement. No locals from the ETFO have reached a deal.

Many expect Broten to begin imposing deals on Wednesday, Jan. 2. If she does, all further job actionincluding a planned one-day protest in the new year — then becomes illegal.

OSSTF president Ken Coran said he could not comment on how the CUPE deal would affect his union’s leverage at the bargaining table.

“Until I know what they actually negotiated, it’s a bit of a grey area,” he said, adding he was hoping that CUPE had struck a deal with more financial flexibility. “Any negotiating team would negotiate what they believe their members would ratify.”

Asked whether any further local agreements were likely to be reached before midnight tomorrow, Coran said it was “impossible.”

“There’s no local bargaining even taking place right now,” he said. “The ball is totally in Minister Broten’s court.”

thestar.com – News

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