New Brunswick schools reopen after tentative deal reached to end public sector strike

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FREDERICTON — Public schools in New Brunswick reopened to students and staff Monday, after a tentative agreement between the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees was reached over the weekend.

Schools had moved to online learning after bus drivers, custodians and educational assistants were among thousands of public sector workers who had walked off the job over two weeks ago.

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said there were relatively few problems as schools reopened.

"There were some issues with teachers who I know would have liked to have had an operational day or two, and I wish we could have accommodated that but there was such pressure to get the schools open again," Cardy said in an interview Monday.

"We heard from a couple of schools who had delays getting the cafeterias opened back up," he said.

Cardy said when classes moved to online learning at the start of the strike, student attendance figures were strong, but began to drop. Online learning is not ideal, he said, adding that it will be important for teachers to ensure students haven't fallen behind.

"I'm asking teachers to check in with the students to see where everyone is, to figure out if there are any gaps that need to be addressed," Cardy said. "My hope is that we'll be able to catch up quickly."

Premier Blaine Higgs said Sunday that community college students will be able to return to on-campus training on Tuesday.

A ratification vote on the proposed deal is to be held this week for roughly 20,000 public sector workers. A union spokesman said a proposed wage package will be voted on by seven CUPE locals, adding that a memorandum of agreement has been reached regarding pension plans for two locals.

Vote results are expected Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 15, 2021.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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