Students head to class Monday: CUPE, Ontario reach tentative deal

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce speaks to the media on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Lecce says the province and CUPE have reached a tentative deal with its support workers, averting a strike on Monday. (Newswatch Group)

TORONTO – Students at the region’s English Public and English Catholic school boards will be heading to class as usual on Monday.

The Ontario government and CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions were able to reach a tentative deal after a marathon bargaining session this weekend.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce says he expects all schools to be open Monday. He says both sides can leave the bargaining table knowing they have made of “incremental success.”

“All the parties worked hard together at the table to reach a fair and responsible agreement that will keep students in the classroom,” Ontario Public School Boards’ Association President Cathy Abraham said in a statement.

The 55,000 support workers like custodians, secretaries, educational assistants and early childhood educators, have been without a contract since Aug. 31.

The Upper Canada District School Board and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario had planned to close schools if support workers walked off the job. Now, that’s not the case.

The provincial government and CUPE have been bargaining throughout the weekend under a media blackout.

CUPE had announced on Wednesday it would be escalating its job action to an all out strike on Monday after two days of a work-to-rule campaign.

Details of the deal have not been disclosed. Those won’t be released until both sides ratify the agreement in the coming weeks.

But CUPE School Board Council President Laura Walton shared with media during a news conference that the deal includes a reinstatement of the Local Priorities Fund, plus a $20 million new investment in that fund, retaining the union’s sick leave plan as well as “modest” wage increases for the lowest paid in the education system.