CUPE education support workers reach deal with Ontario government

The Ontario government has reached a tentative labour agreement with education support workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Marathon talks continue with elementary school teachers as possible pay docks loom

Ontario Education Minister Liz Sandals stands with CUPE members shortly after a tentative agreement was reached with the union, which represents about 55,000 education support workers. (CUPE 7575/Twitter)

Ontario has reached a tentative contract agreement with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), ending a work-to-rule campaign by support staff in schools across the province.

The deal means the Liberal government doesn't have to follow through on a threat to dock the pay of those CUPE members.

Talks continue with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), who are also in the midst of a work-to-rule campaign. 

Premier Kathleen Wynne had said if ETFO's 76,000 teachers, CUPE's 55,000 support staff and other support staff represented by the OSSTF, didn't end their job action by Nov. 1, she would give permission to school boards to trigger five days' notice to dock their pay.

The deadline came and went with no word, and talks with those three unions continued.

Deputy Premier Deb Matthews says the government held off because talks appear to be making progress. 

"I think everyone is focused right now on reaching settlements," she told reporters.


A statement issued by the province Monday morning said CUPE had agreed to stop all job action pending ratification of the deal. The union's members include custodial staff, office administrators, early childhood educators, tradespeople, library technicians and speech pathologists. 

The tentative agreement covers workers in all four school board systems: English public and Catholic, and French public and Catholic.

CUPE's last contract expired in August 2014.

Terms of the deal were not released, but Minister of Education Liz Sandals said in a statement it conforms to the government's "net-zero" approach to talks with public labour unions, meaning any salary increases are offset through savings elsewhere,

"The agreement recognizes the important work that education support workers do every day in our schools," said Sandals in a statement. "They play an integral role in ensuring our schools provide welcoming, safe and clean environments that support student success."

ETFO talks continue

Talks continue with ETFO and support workers represented by the OSSTF. An update on those talks is expected later today. The latter represents about about 15,000 support staff. 

The government and Ontario school boards' associations have already reached three-year deals with the province's public high school teachers as well as unions representing elementary and secondary Catholic teachers and French-public and Catholic board teachers.

ETFO told CBC News this morning they have been bargaining through the night were still at the table Monday. 

The work-to-rule campaign by ETFO members has put extra-curricular activities including sports teams and bands on hold. 

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown suggested the Liberals never meant to follow through with their threat to dock teachers' and support workers' pay. 

"I just don't think it's an option that's being seriously considered by the government," he said. "I thought that was simply a show and a distraction."

With files from The Canadian Press