Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he and his government are ‘back at the table’ with an improved offer for lower-income education workers with the Canadian Union of Public Employees after strike-action ended yesterday.
While Ford didn’t go into specifics of the new deal, he says the two parties are resuming negotiations surrounding wages, benefits and additional supports for education workers across the province.
“I’m so relieved that CUPE accepted our offer and showed the same willingness to compromise. Today, kids are back in class where they belong. We intend to keep our end of the bargain,” said Ford, in today’s news conference.
Legislature is scheduled to sit again on Monday, November 14. Ford says he expects to introduce legislation to repeal Bill 28, and with the support of opposition members, he expects it to pass quickly.
“I believe it’s a good thing that CUPE has agreed to withdraw their strike action and come back to the negotiating table,” says Kenora – Rainy River MPP, Greg Rickford.
“In exchange for CUPE’s decision to withdraw the threat of a strike and work disruption, we will revoke Bill 28 in its entirety on Monday. Our government continues to prioritize keeping kids in class where they belong, and will be back at the table to negotiate a deal – for students, parents, workers and taxpayers.”
However, Ford stressed that this deal with CUPE workers will have significant impacts on future negotiations with public service workers and teachers' unions, warning the new deals could cost the province and its tax-base ‘tens of billions of dollars’.
“Now, both sides need to bring the same spirit of cooperation to negotiations. Just as we’re listening to CUPE, we also need CUPE to listen to us,” says Ford.
“As Premier, I always need to consider how decisions impact the entire province. Our agreement with CUPE will have massive impacts on public service sector salaries, especially as we continue negotiating with teachers.”
As Ford points out, four major teachers’ unions in Ontario all had their contracts expire with the province on August 31, 2022 – and negotiations haven’t begun yet.
“These impacts could cost tens of billions of dollars,” adds Ford. “That’s money we need for schools, healthcare, transit and infrastructure. That’s why it’s so important that CUPE understands where we’re coming from.”
“We want a deal that’s fair for students, fair for parents, tax-payers and fair for workers – particularly, lower-income workers,” he finished.
CUPE, who had been calling for annual wage increases of nearly 12 per cent for all workers, says they’ve proposed a new offer which calls for wage increases of about 6 per cent.
Negotiations between the two parties have continued throughout the latter half of the year after Ontario unveiled their 4-year plan for education workers, which had called for wage increases of 2 per cent for staff earning under $40,000.
In response, CUPE – which represents over 50,000 education workers such as administrators, custodians and more – began calling for wage increases of nearly 12 per cent to fight Canada’s inflation crisis. They also called for a variety of improved supports for staff.
Ontario’s last offer to the union, before the use of Bill 28 and the ensuing strike action, included wage increases of 2.5 per cent for those earning under $43,000 – which was rejected by CUPE leadership shortly after it was made.
CUPE’s protests, which were quickly joined by OPSEU members in solidarity, lasted two days before Ontario promised to repeal the Keeping Students in Class Act – which made strike-action illegal with threats of $4,000 fines.