Education workers in Ontario have voted to accept the four year deal offered by the provincial government.
The ratification vote brings lengthy, and at times contentious, negotiations between the two sides to a close after strike action saw schools across Ontario close in early November, and threatened to once again weeks later.
While CUPE-OBSCU President Laura Walton said the government’s deal “falls short” as the bargaining team prepared to present it to members, the prevailing belief was that it was the best offer this government would make to education workers.
CUPE 1480 Local President Erin Provost said members are happy to at least not have to give up ground on a number of things like sick days, but that the deal isn’t really a big victory for CUPE members.
“We didn’t lose anything,” Provost said.
“They had concessions for a lot of things and we didn’t end up losing anything. We kept everything basically as status quo and we ended up with a dollar an hour raise. It isn’t nearly enough, but it’s more than we’ve seen in over a decade.”
Provost said the bargaining team wasn’t sure the Ontario government would even rejoin them at the table, and worried that interest arbitration could lead to a less favourable deal for workers.
76% of 55,000 education workers participated in the ratification vote between November 24 and December 4, with 73% of those voting in favour of the agreement.
In a statement from CUPE, Laura Walton said she and her coworkers stood up to the Ford government’s bullying, and being able to actually have members agree to their own deal is notable.
“This collective agreement is our first in 10 years to be freely bargained instead of forced on us with legislative interference,” Walton said.
“It’s the product of democracy in action – workers having the freedom to negotiate and to withdraw our labour if necessary.”
Provost said that the recent court decision to overturn the public sector wage-suppressing Bill 124 didn’t really have any bearing on members’ willingness to go back to the table, expecting that any effort to make right to employees would likely come in the form of a lump sum payment rather than adjusting wages retroactively.
She says however the Ford government’s intent to appeal that decision demonstrates the contempt the government has for its’ school children, as the money that will be spent on an expectedly lengthy and rigorous legal challenge could have gone towards supports for students.
“Our students really need those supports and the government is refusing to give it to them,” Provost said.
“The majority of our members are disappointed that there was no support for students and nothing put in place for services so our fight there isn’t over we’re going to continue fighting however we can, that’s not just a bargaining issue, that’s a government issue.”
The bargaining team said that there is no new money for supports or services as part of this deal.
Workers will receive a fixed rate $1 raise every year of the four year agreement, roughly a 3.59% raise for members.