Education workers’ labour dispute likely finally over

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Parents can now finally breathe a sigh of relief after several weeks of uncertainty over whether or not their kids would be in school. The labour dispute between the province and members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) led to two days of missed in-person schooling earlier this month. At that time, CUPE was calling the job action a “political protest”, rather than a strike action, because of the impositions of the province’s now-killed Bill 28. A tentative deal has now been reached that will likely avert any further CUPE job action. 

Parents had a scare last week, when a second strike action was looming over the weekend of November 19-20. Another potential strike could have happened on November 21, and by all accounts a strike was considered likely, with schools and government officials preparing actively for a strike situation to occur. Parents were told that they would know by 5 pm on Sunday, November 20 whether they could expect their children’s schools to be open on Monday. However, they had to wait until about 5:30 pm to finally hear the news that a tentative deal had been reached, and schools would be open. 

The tentative deal reached between CUPE and the province proposes flat rate wage increases of $1 per hour per year over the four year span of the contract. It also removes some negative actions that the province was hoping to take against CUPE workers, such as unfavourable changes to sick leave entitlement, and the ability to more easily cut education worker positions. 

A tentative deal reached by a union is one that still must be ratified by a vote of the union members. CUPE is encouraging members to accept the terms of the tentative deal, as it is likely the best deal that education support staff are going to get, particularly in the shadow of the now-killed Bill 28 which had stripped workers of many rights. 

Voting for the ratification of the tentative deal began on November 24, and will continue until December 4. Though it is not certain, it is likely that CUPE members will ratify the deal and take the new four-year contract that has been offered. Labour solidarity usually takes place in conjunction with a union, not against a union. While it is not likely that CUPE workers will initiate any further job action in the years ahead, members of the province’s teacher unions are also currently without a contract, so it remains to be seen if a labour dispute with teachers will occur in the near future. 

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