CUPE education workers ratify contract, UCDSB to receive $5.8M for re-hiring

BROCKVILLE – Non-teaching education workers in Ontario’s schools ratified their contract with the provincial government last week.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents over 55,000 employees of Ontario’s school boards including the Upper Canada District School Board and Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, said that 79 per cent of membership approved of the new contract.

Details of the new contract include a yearly one per cent wage increase, and no more than a one per cent increase in benefits over the three year contract.

One of the key sticking points in contract negotiations, which nearly led to a province-wide strike on October 6th, was absenteeism and sick leave benefits. The contract leaves short and long term disability coverage the same as under the previous contract. However there will now be a standardized “proof of illness” medical form to be used in processing claims. School boards will now have the ability to seek additional medical information relating to sick leave and disability leave use.

“Our singular aim through this process was to keep students in class and provide predictability and certainty to parents, students, and educators,” said Ontario education minister Stephen Lecce. “This agreement demonstrates our government can get deals with our labour partners, and it affirms the importance of all parties staying at the negotiating table and taking a reasonable approach to the bargaining process.”

“We are pleased that CUPE members have ratified an agreement that restores the tens of thousands of service hours for Ontario students cut by the Ford government earlier this year,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), which led centralized negotiations on behalf of 55,000 CUPE members.

UCDSB students will be among the biggest beneficiaries of the contract’s new Local Priorities fund, which restores funding for front-line services to school boards which cut employees recently.

The English-Public school board will receive over $4.3 million for the 2019-20 school year to reinstate previously eliminated positions. That amounts to over 76 full-time equivalent employees. In June, cuts to the UCDSB’s 2019-20 budget eliminated over 180 FTE positions.

Also added to the board’s budget under the new contract is almost $773K for special education staff and $671K for what was termed as “other staffing amount” under the Investing in System Priorities funding.

“I can only say that yes there are on-going negotiations scheduled between human resources and CUPE to address this new money and how it will be directed back to the intended purpose,” said UCDSB trustee chair John McAllister.

After the print deadline for this week’s Leader, superintendent of human resources and operational services Jeremy Hobbs said, “The Upper Canada District School Board is receiving significant additional funding as a result of the CUPE agreement that was achieved through bargaining at the provincial level. It is our understanding that these funds are to be used to offset some of the CUPE staffing reductions that were made during the 2019-20 budget process. We expect that CUPE staffing levels will increase as a result of this new funding, however we will be meeting with our local CUPE representatives over the coming weeks to discuss how these funds will be applied. Bargaining at the local level is still ongoing.”

The three-year collective contract between CUPE and the province retroactively goes into effect for September 1, 2019 and will expire on August 31st, 2022.

CUPE is the first of Ontario’s education sector unions to reach a labour deal with the Ontario government.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action and filed for a “No Board Report”. Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation members are still voting on possible strike action but having already filed for a “No Board Report” and will be in a legal strike position on November 18th. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association are holding province-wide strike votes.

Since you’re here…

… Thanks for reading this article. Local news is important. We hope that you continue to support local news by reading The Leader, online and in print. Please consider subscribing to the print edition of the newspaper. Click here to subscribe today.