Ontario School Boards Ratify Agreement with CUPE Education Workers
Ontario school boards have ratified the four-year provincial deal reached with CUPE education workers on December 5. “The agreement reached reflects the committed efforts of all involved to ensure the well-being of students and the dedicated members of CUPE who serve in Catholic schools throughout Ontario,” said Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association President Patrick Daly in a statement.
President of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association Cathy Abraham said, “Throughout this process our goal has been to negotiate a fair agreement that is fully funded and in the best interest of students. We value the contribution that education workers make to the educational experience of our students every day, and so we are extremely pleased to have ratified this agreement.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement to the Toronto Star, “We are proud to have delivered a deal that keeps students in class and provides families the stability they deserve.” This is again an attempt to put the blame on education workers and teachers for allegedly keeping students out of class when they fight for working and learning conditions the system requires.
Attempts by the government to impose deals and its refusal to engage in good faith negotiations is what persuaded CUPE education workers to carry out a two-day political protest against the legislated contract with unacceptable conditions and, in addition, the use of the notwithstanding clause to make it illegal for education workers to resist this arbitrary dictate and fight for their demands. The government bears the responsibility for the school closures by invoking the notwithstanding clause and legislating a collective “agreement.”
Having resorted to using the notwithstanding clause to make the workers’ struggles illegal, no one can now predict what the government will do as negotiations continue in K-12 education given where, once again, it is dictating, not negotiating.
It is wrong to suppress the views and demands of workers with threats and the use of penalties and force. In the coming the year, the workers must step up using their own voice to create public opinion to argue out why their demands are just, what are the actual conditions in the schools and demand the government properly fund the education system. The government is dishonest. It is not doing its duty and it must be held to account.