CUPE claims Ford government not holding up its end of the bargain
QUEEN'S PARK -- One of Ontario’s education-sector unions, which signed and ratified a new contract with the province, is accusing the Ford government of not holding up its end of the bargain months after the deal was inked.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees says the government agreed to restore $78 million in funding to re-hire 1,300 staff across provincial school boards, but the money has yet to leave the government’s bank account.
“None of the money has flowed,” said Laura Walton, a representative of the union’s bargaining team.
The union, which represents 55,000 school support workers, clerical employees and custodians, negotiated the continuation of a $58-million Local Priorities Fund and a $20-million Workers Protection Fund for the next three years to “restore services and jobs lost.”
Walton said the money was supposed to flow to local school boards at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, but said school boards have been forced to defer hiring or have hired staff on their own dime.
“I would like to hope that they’re not going back on their promise,” Walton said. “Hold up your end of the bargain, these services need to be in place by Feb 3.”
Walton added that while the contract with the government cannot be reopened, the union would have thought twice about signing the deal with the information it now has.
“Had we known that the government was not going to follow through… we would have never signed that deal.”
The government said the money cannot be released until all education-sector unions have signed new contracts.
A spokesperson for the Ontario Minister of Education told CTV News Toronto that school boards can use “surpluses or lines of credit” to hire new staff and will be repaid by the government.
"CUPE voluntarily signed an agreement knowing that many aspects of the agreement would be fully implemented once the union ratifies the agreement at both the central and local levels," press secretary Alexandra Adamo said. "Many boards and CUPE locals still need to ratify at the local level, and given the importance of these supports being in place, we urge the union and boards to expedite local ratification."
"Students deserve no less.”