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Terri Preston, chair of CUPE’s central bargaining committee, shown in this 2014 file photo, said in a release that a new deal with the Ontario government, “goes some way toward reinvesting back into the system and into the wages of the lowest paid workers in Ontario’s education sector.” (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Terri Preston, chair of CUPE’s central bargaining committee, shown in this 2014 file photo, said in a release that a new deal with the Ontario government, “goes some way toward reinvesting back into the system and into the wages of the lowest paid workers in Ontario’s education sector.” (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Ontario education workers sign contract extension Add to ...

An Ontario union has ratified a deal with the government to extend its current contract – a move that gives Premier Kathleen Wynne a degree of labour peace during an upcoming election.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents educational assistants, early childhood educators and custodians, among others, said on Wednesday that the deal with the government includes a 4-per-cent wage increase over two years. That is similar to tentative deals the government has reached with other education unions, including public elementary school teachers and Catholic teachers.

“Our members have been very frustrated for some time that their wages have fallen behind in successive rounds of negotiations,” Terri Preston, chair of CUPE’s central bargaining committee, said in a release. “This extension agreement goes some way toward reinvesting back into the system and into the wages of the lowest paid workers in Ontario’s education sector.”

In recent weeks, the Liberal government has struck tentative deals with a number of education unions. Only the province’s public high school teachers’ union, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), has not as yet reached an agreement with the government.

The tentative agreement with the Catholic teachers includes more supports for students with special needs, and, according to news reports, the government has agreed to cap kindergarten classes at 30 students in its tentative deal with the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

The deal with the CUPE includes some funding for apprenticeships and professional development, the union said.

All collective agreements with education workers in the province are to expire in August, and even a one-year extension would have given the Liberals labour peace during an election, which is expected to be held in the spring of 2018.

Only after The Globe and Mail revealed in September that the government was in discussions to extend the contract with the OSSTF did the Liberals confirm they had offered extensions to all unions that were part of a lawsuit against the province over Bill 115, a 2012 piece of legislation that imposed contracts on education workers and suspended their right to strike.

The OSSTF, the ETFO and CUPE, among others, won a court ruling last year deeming Bill 115 unconstitutional.

The unions were discussing compensation with the province; the contract extension was an option the government put on the table.

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