Strike averted, schools remain open
By Chad Ingram
While last week it looked as though schools in the Trillium Lakelands District School Board would be closed to classes Monday, weekend negotiations between the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees saw a tentative deal struck, meaning it’s business as usual at local schools.
CUPE represents about 55,000 education workers in the province, including educational assistants, clerical and janitorial staff, and last week the union took the step of announcing that main hallways and gymnasiums would no longer be swept, as it sought a new contract with the government.
With a full strike poised to proceed for Monday, Oct. 7, the school board had announced that, should that be the case, schools would be closed to students. However, successful negotiations that took place at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto during the weekend mean that classes are on.
“I don’t know all the details,” said Bill Campbell, president of CUPE Local 997, representing workers in the TLDSB. “From what I do know, it’s a fair deal.”
As Campbell explained, the next step is for local bargaining to take place. “There’s another layer to this,” he said.
“It was certainly not our intention to disrupt any of the parents, or students’ education,” Campbell said, noting that from what he had seen, there seemed to be widespread support, including parents demonstrating in support of the union workers outside the hotel during the weekend’s negotiations.
“I personally did not see anyone complaining,” Campbell said.
CUPE will cease any job action until a new contract is ratified. Those contracts are typically three years in length, but Campbell said it’s possible that the parties may have negotiated different terms.
The deal came as welcome news to the school board.
“We, as trustees, are very pleased that a tentative agreement has been reached,” TLDSB chairwoman Louise Clodd told the Echo.
Members must ratify the tentative agreement by the end of the month.
“We’re confident that is going to take place,” Clodd said, adding the board realizes the important role that CUPE members play in the functioning of schools.
“I’d really like to thank our parents and students and staff members for their patience,” she added.
“All the parties worked hard together at the table to reach a fair and responsible agreement that will keep students in the classroom,” said OPSBA president Cathy Abraham in a press release. “Education workers play an important role in our schools, and this agreement is a recognition that we value the contribution they make to the educational experience of our students every day.”
Premier Doug Ford also seemed pleased with the result, saying in a press release that the government had worked tirelessly to achieve the outcome.
“Throughout this process our goal has been to establish agreements that respect taxpayers, students and families, while also recognizing the important contributions of our front-line education workers,” the statement from Ford reads. “Our government worked tirelessly at the bargaining table to achieve this goal and as a result two million students will remain in the classroom where they belong.”