CUPE workers finally to see results of strike action

CUPE workers protest in front of Bob Bailey's office during contract negotiations in November 2022. CUPE and the Lambton-Kent District School Board have finally ratified the agreement reached in November.

Nearly six months after the strike ended, educational workers, secretaries and custodians have a new contract.

The members of CUPE 1238 and the Lambton-Kent District School Board announced Wednesday the deal reached at the provincial level in November had been ratified.

Over 50,000 members of CUPE took to the streets in November in a contentious battle with the Ontario Government. Premier Doug Ford invoked the Not-Withstanding Clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to remove the workers right to strike even before the job action began. The workers went on strike anyway, losing two days of pay in the process.

Local 1238 President Michele LaLonge-Davey says once the main contract for all Ontario CUPE workers was reached, giving the workers a $1 per hour raise for the next four years, local boards had to meet with unions to finish the deal. And she admits it took a long time.

“Both parties did our best to you know, get those collaborative dates and times organized and this is this is how long it took,” LaLonge-Davey says. “I don’t want to comment in a negative light. It feels long to the members, that would be an important thing to say, but both parties can meet when we can meet.”

She adds the 1,100 Lambton-Kent workers – who are the lowest paid in the education sector – will see their pay increase, back pay and the return of the two days of lost wages in the next 30 days.

“Anybody losing two days pay it hit your pocketbook differently…but especially for the lower earners and occasional employees and people who are not working full time – yeah – that that was a big hit,” says LaLonge-Davey.

“I am so proud of the bravery – I’m gonna get emotional – of the bravery that it took to do the work we did in November. It was very scary for people, right? It was really scary. But we did it together and it was wonderful. Fought back Doug Ford, fought back, Bill 28, you know, fought back the notwithstanding clause, all those things.”

LaLonge-Davey says there are still a few locals across the province working to finalize the deal.