Ontario's education minister has a message of gratitude as education support workers represented by CUPE start voting on a tentative deal.
The two sides reached the deal on Sunday, the day before 55,000 workers were expected to walk off the job, but the head of their union didn't give it a ringing endorsement.
Laura Walton, president of the Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said the tentative deal fell short.
"As a mom, I don't like this deal. As a worker, I don't like this deal. As the president of the OSBCU, I understand why this is the deal that's on the table," she said Sunday night.
The offer up for approval is the same one the Ontario government offered the union a week ago.
While the union may believe the offer falls short, Lecce said he would respect the outcome of the vote.
"I'm going to respect the ratification process but reaffirm how important it is that we came together to keep kids in school," he said.
Member of CUPE and supporters rally outside MPP Andrew Dowie's officer in Windsor, November 4, 2022. (Photo by Maureen Revait)
The labour dispute came to a head earlier this month when the government imposed a contract using the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Constitution. The workers revolted with a two-day protest. Despite the past, Lecce told reporters he was grateful for the work education support workers do.
"I think many of us could name the custodian, the secretaries, the individuals in our lives, that as young people, cared for us and went above and beyond," said Lecce. "I want to thank them for what they do."
Meanwhile, the Ontario government continues to negotiate with the teacher unions.
The deal offered to education workers will give the highest paid among them a 1.8 per cent increase each year of the contract.
Lecce refused to say if the increase would serve as a benchmark in talks with the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation and the Association des enseignants et des enseignants franco-ontariens.
He did say talks were progressing.
"We've had productive discussions with our teachers' unions," said Lecce. "This mission of the government is a deal that respects the workers, but most importantly, keeps kids in the classroom."
The ratification vote for education support workers continues online until December 5, and results should be available the following day.