Ontario reaches tentative deal with school support workers
Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten addresses a news conference in Toronto on Monday, April 9, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Colin Perkel)
Published Sunday, December 30, 2012 5:29PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 30, 2012 8:08PM EST
Ontario has reached a tentative agreement with the union that represents school support workers just before a Jan. 1 deadline, and at the same time Education Minister Laurel Broten said the province will not extend the deadline for school boards and local teachers’ unions to negotiate new collective agreements.
The deadline is set for 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Under the terms of Bill 115, the province will be able to impose collective agreements on unions that have failed to reach one through local negotiations.
In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Broten said she is “hopeful” that the school boards, teachers and support staff will be able to reach an agreement before the deadline, but stressed that the deadline must be respected.
“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,” she said. “By midnight tomorrow night, all negotiations must be finalized and agreements submitted.”
Broten has not said if she will impose contracts on Jan. 1, but said she will be available to discuss the government’s next actions on Thursday.
Sixty-five ratified agreements have been submitted to the province. Over 400 local agreements need to be struck.
The unions representing the Toronto-area elementary and secondary school teachers have not reached deals.
The agreement with the Canadian Union of Public Employees was reached after 30 hours of discussions, said Broten. “I want to thank CUPE for working with us to find a way forward before the deadline,” she said.
Broten said the province will give the CUPE 14 more days to ratify the deal.
CUPE represents around 55,000 school support staff including educational assistants, early childhood educators, instructors, custodians, librarians and secretaries. The union’s leaders will vote on the tentative deal on Jan.5.
Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, said the union still opposes Bill 115 and will continue to fight to have it repealed.
"Bill 115 created an unnecessary crisis, making things much more difficult at the bargaining table." said 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."
Chair of CUPE’s bargaining committee Terri Preston said the agreement addresses the circumstances faced by school support workers, whose average salary is $38,000. She also said many are laid off multiple times a year.
Earlier in December teachers across the province participated in a series of rotating one-day walkouts to fight the bill.
Bill 115 freezes teachers’ pay, restricts the practice of banking sick days and limits teachers’ right to strike.