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Education workers in Ontario, Canada ratify contract, averting strike

Education workers in Ontario, Canada ratify contract, averting strike
Hundreds of thousands of children will continue attending classes after union, Ontario government reach agreement

By Barry Ellsworth

TRENTON, Canada (AA) - The union for education workers in the Canadian province of Ontario announced Monday that they ratified a new contract, meaning hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren will remain in classrooms.

Laura Walton, president of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said a total of 41,559 out of 55,000 education workers cast ballots, and 30,330 – 73% – voted in favor of the contract, which included a wage hike.

lt brought an end to contentious negotiations between the union and the Ontario government that saw the education workers go on a two-day strike in early November. The strike ended when the province promised to repeal its controversial no-strike bill and the two sides returned to the negotiating table.

Other unions had threatened a general strike in solidarity with the education workers -- members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) -- if the government did not repeal the bill.

"They thought they could divide us," she said at a news conference Monday. "We refused to back down. (We showed) you could stand up to the bully."

Walton said the new contract represents almost double the wage hike increase from the province's original offer.

The agreement, which covers several positions including educational assistants, administrative staff and custodians, sees a CAN$1 (US$0.74) hourly wage increase (3.59% annually). The government's original offer was 2% for the lowest paid workers and 1.25% for the other members.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said after the deal was announced that the two sides "came together in the interest of our kids and put them first."

source: News Feed
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