After days of ongoing tense bargaining, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has reached a tentative deal with the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, leaving parents scrambling on Sunday night at 6 p.m. to get their children ready for school the next day.
Many parents were doubtful that school would continue as normal on November 21 after contract discussions crumbled in recent weeks. The claim is that CUPE will not settle for a two-tiered wage increase, which is what the Doug Ford Conservative government under Education Minister Stephen Lecce is offering.
Right on the deadline, at 5 p.m. November 20, the parties reached a tentative deal.
“Kids deserve to be in class and I’m proud to confirm that they will be,” Lecce said during a press release late Sunday night. Lecce’s focus appears unwavering – providing school stability to children after two long years of rolling COVID-related school closures implemented by his same government.
In a statement issued by CUPE, they note that the “fight has always been focused on the workers.” Their members will vote on the new contract details later this week.
CUPE has stated that the government offered a 3.59 percent wage increase for all workers, according to mainstream sources.
The government had previously attempted to pass legislation titled the “Keeping Students in Class Act," which utilized the notwithstanding clause, making strike action by workers illegal.
The bill offered a two-tiered wage increase of 2.5 percent annually for those who make under $43,000 and 1.5 percent yearly for those who make more.
As part of continued good faith bargaining efforts, the government withdrew this heavy-handed legislation after protests and threats ensued from the union and its members.
Despite this, negotiations continued to deteriorate and CUPE issued a five-day strike notice on November 16.
CUPE issued guidance to limit media comments prior to this. They had also stated that they will not settle for a two-tier settlement.
This comes on the tail of Ontario schoolchildren being shuttered out of the classroom for the better part of two years in what was the longest and harshest school closure in all of North America.
It’s why we have launched a petition at BackToClass.ca that you can sign if you agree that children should remain in class unabated.