Ontario reaches tentative deal with school support workers

Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten announced the province signed a template deal with the Canadian Union of Public Employees before Monday's midnight deadline.
Education Minister Laurel Broten encouraged teachers' unions and local school boards who have not yet reached deals to come to an agreement before the deadline of midnight on Dec. 31. (CBC)

The Ontario provincial government has reached a tentative agreement with the union representing school support workers, according to a statement from the province's education minister.

Laurel Broten said in a release Sunday the template deal with the Canadian Union of Public Employees came after an additional 30 hours of discussions, beating Monday's midnight deadline for agreements with teachers and support staff.

Broten has not said if she would move to impose deals on Jan. 1, only saying she has the option to do it under Bill 115.

The legislation freezes the pay of most teachers, reduces their ability to bank sick days and limits their right to strike.

CUPE represents about 55,000 workers, including educational assistants, early childhood educators, instructors, custodians, librarians and secretaries.

CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn said the union remains opposed to Bill 115 and it will continue its campaign to repeal it, which includes a legal challenge.

The union said its leaders will vote on the tentative deal Jan. 5 and if it is approved, a ratification vote will follow in the weeks afterwards.

14 extra days to reach deals

Broten said the government will allow union locals and school boards 14 more days after Monday night's deadline to submit their local agreements.

The union representing public elementary teachers held a series of rotating one-day strikes earlier in December that affected every public school board in the province as part of its fight against the controversial legislation.

Broten has continued to urge the unions to use the final days of the year to keep trying to reach agreements with local school boards before the deadline.

"At this point, 65 ratified local agreements have been submitted. I am hopeful that those school boards, teachers and support staff who have yet to conclude and submit local agreements will do so," Broten said in her statement.

"This recent agreement demonstrates that it is possible to find solutions when we remain focused on putting students first."

She said she would announce the government's next steps on Thursday.

With files from The Canadian Press