Education workers and senior members of the government are both offering their takes on the tentative deal to keep education workers and students in their classrooms.

On Sunday, leadership with the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario government reached a tentative deal on wage and benefit increases – avoiding a second strike for over 50,000 education workers across the province.

“Kids are where they belong – in school. That was our goal all along,” says Kenora – Rainy River MPP, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister of Northern Development, Greg Rickford.

“The winners are kids,” he adds. “Our priority was to make sure that they stayed in school. The details of the agreement are subject to ratification. We stayed true to our commitment of keeping kids in class. That’s a win for everybody.”

No details surrounding wages or additional supports in the new deal have been revealed to the public. However, CUPE says the government still hasn’t budged on new support systems for staff, and a ratification vote is expected in the coming days.

“The tentative agreement includes a flat-rate wage increase, instead of a percentage,” explains CUPE-OSBCU president Laura Walton. “This tentative agreement is nowhere near everything education workers and kids deserve, however it’s all this government is willing to give.”

CUPE had been calling for annual wage increases of nearly 12 per cent for all workers, with increases in overtime pay, additional education assistants and custodians, and increased staffing levels in libraries, offices and lunchrooms.

“The biggest gap at the end was no new funding to guarantee that services will be provided in schools for students,” adds Walton. “For that, to parents and families, all I can say is that I’m disappointed and so is the entire bargaining committee.”

CUPE says as it stands, their central bargaining committee is recommending that members accept the tentative agreement during the union’s ratification process, which will take place through the weekend of November 26 and 27.

In northwestern Ontario, potential CUPE strikes affected schools within the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board who had custodians and maintenance and trade staff represented by the union. Kenora Catholic schools were only affected by the first strike, after members of OPSEU joined in solidarity.