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Local boards reopen schools as CUPE ends mass walkout

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The anger and frustration on the picket lines turned to cautious optimism, and some relief in Barrie as the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ (CUPE) agreed to end its mass walkout on Tuesday.

“I’m very happy about that, I love my job, and I’m there for the kids and students every single day,” said Anne Marie Weening, CUPE member. “I will continue to be there every single day as long as Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce work out a fair agreement and contract for us.”

The union representing 55,000 education workers across the province agreed to return to schools on Tuesday after Premier Doug Ford offered to rescind the legislation that made the strike illegal.

Last Thursday, the Premier and Education Minister Stephen Lecce passed legislation to impose a four-year contract on education workers banning them from striking.

Negotiations between the two parties have been at a standstill for over a week, but now Ford said he is willing to make a “fair deal” offering more help to lower-income workers.

“I would like to see that we would still be striking until a deal is reached. I don’t trust Ford and Lecce,” said Christine Reid, CUPE member. “I don’t trust the government, so until we reach a fair agreement, I just don’t trust them.”

Parents with school-aged children were forced to pivot to online learning Monday morning, but many school boards have confirmed students will return to in-person learning Tuesday.

The Simcoe County District School Board said Monday that all SCDSB schools, learning centres, and before and after school programs would fully reopen to students on Tuesday. All community use permits will resume on Tuesday as well.

Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, Trillium Lakelands District School Board, Conseil Scolaire Catholique MonAvenir and York Region District School Board have also said schools will be open for in-person learning starting Tuesday.

CUPE represents various employee groups at Ontario school boards, which include custodians, early childhood educators, education assistants and school administration staff.

CUPE wants an 11.7 per cent increase. Its members have been without a contract since August 31.

With files from CTV’s Catalina Gillies and Rob Cooper.

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