Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government would present an “improved offer” when negotiations resume with a union representing 55,000 education workers, who returned to work after a walkout that left closed schools across the province.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Ford declined to provide specific details of the government’s proposal, but said the offer would be particularly attractive to low-income workers.
“We want a fair deal for students, fair for parents, fair for taxpayers and fair for workers, especially low-income workers,” he said.
The workers, represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), ended their protest on Monday just hours after Ford promised to repeal a bill that used the notwithstanding clause to impose a multi-year contract and banned workers to strike.
Bill 28 has met with fierce resistance from CUPE and other unions. Ford said the law would be repealed when the legislature reconvenes early next week.
But in a statement on Tuesday, CUPE hinted it wanted to see the law repealed sooner.
“They had a 5 a.m. session last week to push through this rights-busting bill. We’re calling on Ford and his cronies to show the same sense of urgency to do the right thing,” said the syndicate.
WATCH | Ford says CUPE contracts will impact the entire public sector:
Negotiations with the Canadian Union of Public Employees resumed a day after Premier Doug Ford promised to repeal legislation that imposed contracts on workers and their union agreed to end a strike that shut down hundreds of schools.
“While I can’t go into specifics, we’re back at the table with an improved offer, especially for low-income workers,” Ford said at a morning press conference at the Legislative Assembly. .
“Two Level Negotiation”
But Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, had a different opinion.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an improvement,” she said during a break in negotiations. “I think there’s still a huge concern. We’re not doing two-tier bargaining.”
Ford said he wanted to continue negotiations in good faith.
“I don’t want to fight. I just want the kids to be in school. I’m past the fighting stage, people don’t want it,” he said with a change in tone. marked down from last week, when he and Education Minister Stephen Lecce said they had no choice but to pass legislation to prevent a strike.
However, he also warned that any deal with education workers will impact the four main teachers’ contracts as well in negotiations and increases for CUPE could result in “tens of billions of dollars” for pay raises. teachers, and he needs to watch Ontario’s bottom line.
“It’s money we need for schools, health care, public transit and infrastructure,” Ford said. “It’s money we need for the vital services that hard-working people in this province rely on.”
Ford said the government had previously offered a higher amount than what was in its original draft contract, and he was “devastated” that CUPE had not accepted it.
The government had originally proposed increases of 2% a year for workers earning less than $40,000 and 1.25% for everyone else, and the four-year deal imposed by the soon-to-be-repealed law granted increases. annual increases of 2.5% for workers earning less than $43,000 and increases of 1.5% for all others.
CUPE said the framing was not precise because the increases actually depend on hourly wages and pay scales, so the majority of workers who earn less than $43,000 a year would not get 2.5% .
CUPE initially asked for annual wage increases of 11.7% and said it later tabled a counter-offer that halved its wage proposal.
The union says it is technically still in a legal strike position, but will now focus on a new bargaining effort.
Parents expressed relief during Tuesday’s morning deposition that schools had reopened.
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.
“I’m happy and I’m happy that today is the day they come back,” she said outside Thorncliffe Park Public School in Toronto.
“Otherwise it was like a nightmare for us, (figuring out) how to take care of our children at home if they don’t go to school.”