Province presents education workers ‘improved offer’: Ford

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks at a news conference regarding negotiations with education workers, November 8, 2022. Photo from Government of Ontario YouTube channel.

On the same day education workers returned to schools, the province put forward an “improved offer” at the bargaining table aimed at keeping them there.

Premier Doug Ford announced at a news conference Tuesday morning the province returned to negotiations with the union representing Ontario’s 55,000 early childhood educators, educational assistants, custodians, and clerical staff with the new offer.

“While I can’t get into details, we are back at the table with an improved offer, particularly for the lower income workers,” said Ford.

He went on to state that he and his government are willing to negotiate all day and night to get a deal.

“I don’t want to fight, I just want the kids in school… I’m past the stage of fighting,” said Ford. “People don’t want it. Parents don’t want it, students don’t want it.”

Workers represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) went back to work Tuesday morning, ending a walkout that began last Friday, after Ford pledged to rescind legislation that used the notwithstanding clause to impose a contract on workers and make their strike illegal. The controversial Bill 28 passed last Thursday after the two sides were unable to make any headway, leading a mediator to end talks.

Ford has now promised to rescind Bill 28 on Monday.

“We will be introducing legislation to repeal Bill 28 in its entirety. With the cooperation of the Opposition we expect to get it passed quickly,” said Ford. “Now both sides need to bring the same spirit of cooperation to negotiations”

While Ford repeatedly said he agreed with the union that lower income workers deserve to earn more, he stated he has to consider that any deal with CUPE will have bigger implications across the province.

“Our agreement with CUPE will have massive impacts on broader public service salaries, especially as we continue negotiating with teachers,” said Ford. “These impacts they could cost tens of billions of dollars. That is money we need for schools, health care, transit and infrastructure. It’s money we need for vital services that every hard working person of this province rely on. That’s why it is so important CUPE understands where we are coming from.

Prior to Tuesday, the last offer the union received from the Ford government was for a four-year deal that included a 2.5 per cent yearly raise for workers earning less than $43,000 annually and a 1.5 per cent pay boost annually for all others. CUPE had previously asked for a 11.7 per cent wage increase, which works out to roughly an extra $3.25. an hour. As well as five more paid days leading into each school year and 30 minutes of paid prep time.

If a deal is not reached and talks between the two sides break down again, the union has confirmed it would be within its legal right to again issue a five-day strike notice.