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As CUPE school support staff began voting on a tentative agreement, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said he was ‘grateful’ the parties were able to secure a deal and avoid disruptions in schools .

Lecce said his message to the 55,000 caretakers, teaching assistants, early childhood educators and other school workers would be a “message of gratitude,” after he made an unrelated announcement at Centennial College’s Ashtonbee campus in Scarborough on Thursday.

“I want to thank them for what they do to support our children,” he said. “Acknowledging that we have reached a fair agreement, I can respect the ratification process, but reaffirm how important it is that we come together to keep children in school.

Lecce added that he was “just grateful that we got our kids’ interests together and put them first, and now we have a tentative agreement.”

The Ontario government and the school board bargaining unit of the Canadian Union of Public Employees announced that they had reached a contractual agreement last Sunday, after a full weekend of last-minute talks and under threat impending strike.

The contract offer provides for an increase of $1 per hour per year, for an average wage increase of 15.2% over four years.

CUPE school staff walked off the job for two days earlier this month but resumed negotiations when the province promised to repeal controversial legislation that banned a strike and forced them into a contract using the “notwithstanding clause of the Bill of Rights.

The head of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions bargaining unit said the deal was “failing” because the government was unwilling to provide funding for additional staff. However, the CUPE national leader said that “no agreement has everything we are looking for, but we are confident that the bargaining committee got everything that could be obtained”.

Voting began on Thursday and ends on December 5, with the results to be released on December 6.

Neither CUPE nor the Ontario School Board Council of Unions would comment during the ratification process.

NDP MP Chandra Pasma, her party’s education critic, said it’s now up to CUPE workers to “decide if this is enough pay raise and enough investment to allow them to do the work they love and want to do. ”

Pasma (Ottawa West-Nepean) said, “As the Official Opposition, we will continue to press the government to make the necessary investments in education to ensure our children receive the support what they need every day.

Asked about ongoing contract negotiations with teachers on Thursday, Lecce said the government looked forward to “continuing to negotiate in good faith with our teachers’ unions”, and called the talks “productive”.

“I think we can rest assured that the government will continue to push for children to be in school and to have the full range of supports that have happened in the school system,” he said. -he declares.

Lecce was at Centennial College with Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy to announce a $4.8 million fund for the Dual Credit Program, which allows students to earn post-secondary credits or begin apprenticeship training while they are still in high school.

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CUPE school workers begin voting on contract offer

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