Contract talks between Ontario education workers, government to involve mediator

By Allison Jones

TORONTO – Ontario education workers such as librarians, custodians and early childhood educators have agreed to mediation with the government in contract talks that have inched toward a strike.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents about 55,000 education workers in the province, said it welcomes the assistance of a mediator.

“We want to reach a negotiated agreement that will guarantee service improvements for students, help solve school boards’ problems hiring and keeping qualified employees, and secure a significant wage increase for the lowest-paid frontline education workers that’s long overdue,” Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Council of Unions, said in a written statement.

tWilliam Kaplan, the mediator, also helped CUPE and the government reach a contract in 2019.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he was pleased with the development in negotiations.

“We will never waver from our belief that students must be in class for the entire school year, surrounded by their friends, learning the life and job skills that will help them catch up,” he wrote in a statement.

CUPE said another bargaining date has also now been added, so the parties will meet on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

The news comes as CUPE awaits what’s known as a “no board” report – the union requested one last week and if the conciliator issues it, the education workers will be in a legal strike position 17 days later.

Walton had said she hoped the request for a no board report would increase pressure on the government to reach a negotiated settlement.

CUPE is looking for annual increases of 11.7 per cent and the government in response has offered raises of two per cent a year for workers making less than $40,000 and 1.25 per cent for all other workers.

Education workers have made several other proposals, including overtime at two times the regular pay rate, 30 minutes of paid prep time per day for educational assistants and ECEs, an increase in benefits and professional development for all workers.