Doug Ford says new CUPE offer is ‘improved’
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Negotiations are resuming between the Ontario government and the union representing 55,000 education workers, who returned to work Tuesday morning after their walkout on Friday — and the premier says his government is bringing to the table an « enhanced » offer.
Doug Ford promised Monday to repeal the special law that imposed agreements on the 55,000 education workers who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) — and prohibited them from striking. Following this promise, the union agreed to end its indefinite general strike and resume negotiations.
Doug Ford said he’s glad the two sides are back in negotiations.
He indicated Tuesday morning that he could not go into the details of the new offer, but his government would have notably improved the conditions for lower-income workers.
He struck a more conciliatory tone than when he told the Canadian Union of Public Employees last month, « don’t force my hand. »
« I’m past the fighting stage, » Ford said Tuesday. Let’s work together and move forward. That’s all I ask. »
However, the Premier warned that any agreement with these 55,000 education workers will have an impact on the four main teachers’ collective agreements that are currently being renegotiated in Ontario. Mr. Ford therefore points out that the increases granted to CUPE could then cost “tens of billions of dollars” to raise the salaries of teachers.
« It’s money we need for schools, health care, public transit and infrastructure, » Ford said. This is money we need for the vital services that hard-working people in this province rely on.”
The government initially proposed increases at the table of 2% per year for workers earning less than $40,000 and 1.25% for everyone else. The four-year contract imposed by the special law, which will soon be repealed, granted annual increases of 2.5% to workers earning less than $43,000 and 1.5% for everyone else.
CUPE said the math wasn’t precise because the increases actually depend on hourly wages and pay scales, so the majority of workers earning less than $43,000 a year wouldn’t get 2.5. %.
CUPE initially demanded annual wage increases of 11.7%; he maintains that he filed a counter-offer which reduced this initial request by half.
Premier Ford said on Tuesday that his government initially offered CUPE union members a higher amount than what was in its initial draft contract, and he was « stunned » to see CUPE turn down the offer.
« I thought we had a deal, » he said. I was convinced that we had an agreement and all of a sudden they came back to my office and said, ‘There is no agreement’, I was stunned.
The CUPE strike by workers, including educational assistants, librarians and janitors, began Friday, closing hundreds of schools to in-person learning, and dragged on through Monday.
Schools reopened on Tuesday after CUPE said its workers would be back to work following Mr Ford’s promise to roll back legislation that also banned strikes and used the notwithstanding clause to guard against constitutional challenges .
Parents expressed relief at news of schools reopening on Tuesday morning.
Sona Popal, the mother of a first-grader, said she had to drop her child off with a family friend while schools were closed because she and her husband had to work.
Outside Thorncliffe Park Public School in Toronto on Tuesday, she said she was happy to be back in school. She called it a “nightmare” having to find alternative ways to care for the children.
– With information from Sharif Hassan.