CUPE Ontario leaders heaped praise and admiration on CUPE education workers and their central bargaining team, the Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), following the announcement that union members had strongly endorsed the tentative agreement negotiated by OSBCU in late November.

Results of the province-wide ratification vote were released this morning, following 11 days of online voting by more than 75 percent of CUPE Ontario’s education members across the province.

“Our heartfelt congratulations go out to all CUPE education workers in Ontario,” said CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn. “It’s been a historic round of collective bargaining and CUPE/OSBCU did a magnificent job of organizing and mobilizing 55,000 members before and during this round of central bargaining.”

Hahn paid tribute to the union’s education workers, in particular to OSBCU’s president Laura Walton and the council’s central bargaining team.

“Laura Walton, the rest of OSBCU, and CUPE education workers have set a new standard for member mobilization, one to admire and emulate throughout our entire union,” he said. “The tremendous engagement of members in the bargaining process is an unprecedented organizing achievement in our movement.”

Hahn pointed out that nearly four times more education members voted in 2022’s ratification ballot than voted in 2019’s ratification, proof of “members’ commitment, engagement and determination to have their voices heard.”  The agreement was passed by 72.9 per cent of the voting membership.

CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Yolanda McClean recognized the significant elements of the ratified agreement: “It establishes a new threshold for wage increases in the broader public sector; it completely eliminates concessions that would have been devastating for workers, students and schools; and it safeguards jobs and job security, which will benefit students and workers.”

Both leaders noted that the ratification follows an eventful round of negotiations, which became part of Ontario labour history with the passage of Bill 28, through which the Ford government attempted to impose a contract on the workers and strip them of their bargaining rights. Education workers walked off the jobs in a two-day political protest, quickly garnering the support of allies in CUPE and the wider Ontario labour movement, along with other unions and labour organizations across the country.

The collective fightback forced the provincial government to repeal the Bill only days after it was passed.

“The heroic and historic reaction against Bill 28 strengthened our movement immeasurably, and the resolve and courage of CUPE/OSBCU education workers were 100 per cent the catalyst for the solidarity we saw,” said Hahn. “We will never forget this fundamental moment in our collective history, nor the lesson it holds for us: when workers and communities stand together, we can move mountains.”