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Ontario CUPE school staff vote to ratify contract with government

Ontario education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees have voted to ratify a contract with the government. Laura Walton, president of CUPE's Ontario School Board Council of Unions, says about 73 per cent of those who voted were in favour.

Deal struck in November after months of tense negotiations

More than 40,000 of CUPE Ontario's 55,000 education worker members voted during the ratification process. (Carlos Osorio/CBC)

Ontario education workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have voted to ratify a contract with the government.

Laura Walton, president of CUPE's Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said about 73 per cent of those who voted were in favour.

Walton — who had said she didn't like the deal because it didn't come with staffing level guarantees — said about 76 per cent of the union's 55,000 education worker members voted during the ratification process.

"I thought it would be closer ... 73 is a bit higher than I expected," Walton said at a press conference on Monday.

Workers who were not in favour had said they were concerned about a lack of services in classrooms, such as numbers of educational assistants and early childhood educators, Walton said.

The ratification ends a whirlwind bargaining process that saw education workers walk off the job for two days after the government passed — then later repealed — legislation that imposed a contract on them, banned them from striking, and used the notwithstanding clause to allow the override of certain charter rights.

CUPE's Laura Walton speaks to journalists at the Queen's Park Legislature in Toronto on Monday December 5, 2022.
Laura Walton said Monday that CUPE would support teachers' unions as they continue to bargain with the province. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The two sides later returned to the table and brokered a tentative deal on Nov. 20 that the union says comes with a $1-per-hour raise each year, or about 3.59 per cent annually, for the average worker.

Speaking to reporters at Queen's Park, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he is grateful to CUPE members who voted to ratify the deal.

"We are so pleased that we were able to reach an agreement — that has now been overwhelmingly ratified by the members — that keeps kids in the classroom, that preserves the learning experience for children who have been through so much disruption these past years," he said.

The four major teachers' unions are still in bargaining with the government.

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