Ontario government, education union begin contract negotiations

·2 min read

Bargaining talks have begun between the government of Ontario and a major education union.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 55,000 Ontario education workers, says negotiations began as scheduled on Monday morning.

Education unions will be negotiating this summer as existing contracts are set to expire on Aug. 31.

The central bargaining committee for CUPE's Ontario School Boards Council of Unions said this month that it hoped to negotiate a deal that offers more supports for students and "makes sure workers' pay is no longer eroded."

A July 7 statement also referenced a memo from the assistant deputy minister of education that said the province is "contemplating" four-year terms for education sector collective agreements, instead of the existing three-year terms.

The memo said the four-year term would allow more stability as students catch up after COVID-19 disruptions and asked for input from bargaining agencies on the options of contracts lasting two, four or five years.

CUPE suggested changing the contract terms would benefit the Progressive Conservatives' re-election bid in 2026, and said education workers are focused on getting a deal that improves the education experience for students and makes life more affordable for workers.

Premier Doug Ford's Tory government was re-elected in June and Education Minister Stephen Lecce has returned to the file.

The government had a poor relationship with the unions over the previous four years, which saw teachers staging strikes and work-to-rule campaigns during the last round of negotiations.

Bill 124, legislation that capped compensation increases for public sector workers at one per cent annually, played a large role in the tensions.

Ford said last month that teachers would be getting a raise "bigger than one per cent."

But the premier also warned that he wants students to be in classrooms in the fall and not out of school or missing extracurriculars due to labour disruptions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 18, 2022.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

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